Ignatius was bishop of Antioch in Syria, this city was persecuted for a short period, where is captured, chained and transported to Rome, which had persecuted Syria. He manages to arrive at Smyrna and is welcomed by Polycarp, the city bishop, it is from this city that he write his four famous letters out of the total seven letter he wrote during his lifetime. The bishop of Ephesus, Onesimus, came to meet Ignatius and give him support in inexpressible love. He then reaches Italy by way of Dyrrhacium, and at last, during the reign of Trajan, is martyred in the Coliseum (A.D 98-117). Ignatius is known for his letters, a prisoner’s letters on his way to martyrdom, the letters reflect the impetuous nature of Ignatius (Boer, Harry R, 1984).
St. Ignatius of Antioch is considered the Father of the Syriac Churches, today many Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches are named in his honor. St. Ignatius had no knowledge of something like that sort of Church where like-minded people who have belief that they have been moved by the Spirit, assembled together. Early Christians to join the Church , were those who were moved by the Spirit and that was the institutional and hierarchical Church which was recognized by St. Ignatius..
When this early bishop accepted to be torn apart by the wild beasts in the arena, it was only due to the institutional and hierarchical Church, an entity purveying both the word and sacraments of Jesus. St. Ignatius never failed to acknowledge that in one of modern days imprecise conjecture, ‘ the people are the Church’. St. Ignatius letters were meant to admonish and motivate no one but ‘the people’. St. Ignatius also believed that each one amongst ‘the people’ who came to the church through a sacred rite of baptism, and hence was associated to a group where the bishop also resembled in certain respects, like the father of the family, while on the other hand a monarch who was more than any democratically selected leader. For him a Church minus the episcopacy was not at all possible. Letter written by Ignatius are the reflection of his views of the hierarchical as well as the monarchical structure of the Church. “Where the bishop is, there let the people be, as were Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church”. The other side of his letters also show warnings about the fake doctrines and teachers, particularly the Docetists, who not only talked negatively about Christ’s humanity but went on to call Him a phantom body.
The unity of Church was the chief concern of Ignatius, and he always mentioned about it in all his letters. According to St. Ignatius the main role in the unity of the Church was played by none other than the bishop. Bishop lay at the centre of the concept, “Let there be nothing in you that can divide you, but be united with the bishop and with those who preside…”(Mag.6:2). Ignatius in his Euchanistic teachings, has emphasized the need for greater unity and also for strengthening the belief in the True Presence of Church. The early Church had its belief that the Eucharistic celebration was a sacrifice which was a truth and if conferred by priest under a bishop’s authorship, it was valid. St. Ignatius, by means of these letters has left a strong declaration and comprehensive history of Christian dogma. For St.Ignatius a Church was impossible without episcopacy.
Boer, Harry R. A Short History of the Early Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984
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