Friday, October 17, 2008

Saints, See the Cloud of Witnesses

After the Apostles, Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch in Syria.  Whether he knew any of the apostles directly is uncertain.  Little is known of his life except for the end of it.  Early in the second century (perhaps around 107 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Trajan), he was arrested and condemned to death, transported to Rome to die in the arena.  By dealing with Ignatius, the authorities hoped to terrify his followers.  Instead, Ignatius took the opportunity to encourage the Christians, speaking to groups of them at every town along the way to Rome.  He wrote seven letters that have been preserved.  In one he writes:  "I am God's wheat, ground fine by the lion's teeth to be made purest bread for Christ."  Ignatius' life and death are commemorated on October 17th.

1.  Saints, see the cloud of witnesses surround us;
     Their lives of faith encourage and astound us.
          Hear how the Master praised their faith so fervent:
          "Well done, My servant!"

2.  These saints of old received God's commendation;
     They lived as pilgrim-heirs of His salvation.
          Through faith they conquered flame and sword and gallows,
          God's name to hallow.

3.  They call to us, "Your timid footsteps lengthen;
     Throw off sin's weight, your halting weakness strengthen.
          We kept the faith, we shed our blood, were martyred;
          Our lives we bartered."

4.  Come, let us fix our sight on Christ who suffered,
     He faced the cross, His sinless life He offered;
          He scorned the shame, He died, our death enduring,
          Our hope securing.

5.  Lord, give us faith to walk where You are sending,
     On paths unmarked, eyes blind as to their ending;
          Not knowing where we go, but that You lead us--
          With grace precede us.

6.  You, Jesus, You alone deserve all glory!
     Our lives unfold, embraced within Your story;
          Past, present, future--You, the same forever--
          You fail us never!

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