Preserve Lord, our Father and Chief Shepherd, and grant him many years.
On 20th December 2003, the feast day of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer was celebrated. Saint Ignatius is the patron saint of our father, His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV.
Feast Day Events
His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, celebrated a vespers service on 19th December, in Al Mariamieh Cathedral, and a Divine Liturgy on 20th December, with the participation of their Eminences the Syrian and Lebanese Metropolitans, and members of the Holy Synod, present in Damascus for their monthly meeting.
The Divine Liturgy was attended By His Holiness Zakka I (Iwass), Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, by Mgr Battikha, representative of His Beatitude Gregorius III, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and by the Apostolic Delegate representing the Roman Patriarch of the West.
Also present, was a delegation from the Holy Church of Jerusalem, Mother of Churches, headed by the Patriarcal Vicar Ezechios, with His Eminence Benedictus, Metropolitan of Philadelphia and All Jordan, and Archimandrite Christophorous. A delegation from Balamand University also attended, headed by the president Dr Elie Salem.
A number of diplomatic figures attended included the ambassadors of Russia, Cyprus, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, and other ecclesiastical and official representatives.
In his speech, His Eminence George Khodr, of Mount of Lebanon, emphasized the holy meanings of this day, pointing out that the name Ignatius means in Greek, “fiery or igneous”, and that Saint Ignatius has incarnated his name in his teaching, his epistles, and missionary journey. His Eminence Khodr continued, making the parallel with our Patriarch Ignatius, who is still “fiery and igneous” in addressing the modern anti-religious ideologies, and in assuming the “economy” of the Antiochian House, which he bears in his heart.
After the Mass, His Beatitude Ignatius and his guests welcomed the faithful. During the luncheon, His Beatitude said “I feel grateful to you for making this event a real feast. My thanks go especially to those who travelled this long way in order to share in this gathering”. He expressed high appreciation for the representatives of the Catholic Church at this event.
In return His Eminence the Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem expressed the hope for a future liberation of the Holy Lands, that would pave the way for closer ties between the sister churches.
An exchange of gifts followed, before His Beatitude Ignatius ended with these words “Christianity did not come from anywhere else. Christ was from this region, and so was St Paul. Christianity was not imported here.”
On the same day, a Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Saint Ignatius Church, Malki.
On this holy occasion, the Al Mariamieh choir – namely Saint Ignatius Choir – presented hymns of the Nativity Paramon, under the title of “To the Child of the Grotto”, on the evening of 22nd December.
The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, Bishop of Antioch
This holy man was named ‘God-Bearer’ because he always carried the name of the living God in his heart and on his lips. Also, by tradition, he was thus named because he was held in the arms of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.
On a day when the Lord was teaching His disciples humility, He took a child and set him among them, saying: ‘Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 18:4). The early church believed this child to be Ignatius.
He was later a disciple of Saint John the Theologian, together with Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. As bishop in Antioch, he governed the Church of God as a good shepherd, and was the first to introduce antiphonal singing into the Church, in which two choirs alternate. This way of singing was revealed to St Ignatius from among the angels in heaven.
When the Emperor Trajan passed through Antioch on his way to battle with the Persians, he heard about Ignatius, summoned him and urged him to offer sacrifice to idols, so that he could then be made a senator. The Emperor’s urgings and threats being in vain, holy Ignatius was put in irons and sent to Rome, escorted by ten soldiers, to be thrown to the wild beasts. Ignatius rejoiced to be suffering for his Lord, and prayed to God that the wild beasts should be the tomb for his body, and that none should hinder his death.
After a long and difficult journey from Asia through Thrace, Macedonia, and Epirus, Ignatius reached Rome, where he was thrown to the lions in the Circus Maximus. They tore him to pieces and devoured him, leaving only a few of the larger bones and his heart.
This glorious lover of the Lord Christ suffered martyrdom in the year 106.
He appeared many times from the other world and worked wonders, helping to this day those who call on him for help.