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The Tree's Fruit

The Church celebrates today the feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. The seven letters he wrote on his way to martyrdom in Rome (probably 107 A.D.) provide a moving and precious testimony of faith.Here is an excerpt from his "Letter to the Smyrnaeans:"

I give thanks to Jesus Christ, the God who has made you wise. For I know that you are established in certain faith, as if you were nailed in flesh and in spirit to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in love by his blood. For you are convinced that Our Lord is truly of the family of David according to the flesh, and Son of God, by God's will and power;that he is truly born of a Virgin, baptized by John so that all righteousness might be fulfilled in him; truly nailed for us in the flesh under Pontius Pilate and the tetrarch Herod -- from the tree's fruit are we, from his passion we are blessed by God! --Thus he raised a standard forever, through the resurrection, for his saints and faithful (whether among Jews or Gentiles) in the one body of his Church.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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I discovered Ignatius at the age of 20 when I heard a Capuchin priest quote him in a homily. I found his 7 letters in a used book and was delighted to see how clearly and sweetly he speaks as Christian to Christian, without the weight of theological jargon that came later. His letters are indeed a precious testimony of our faith.

I know from the Acts of the Apostles that "Christian" was first used at Antioch to describe the followers of Christ, but I didn't know that Ignatius was the first to refer to the Church as "Catholic," something I learned from the Pope's catechesis about Ignatius originally delivered at a general audience in March 2007:

My youngest son turned one on Saturday, 17 October. His baptismal name is Ignatius after this great saint

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