“Allow me to receive the pure light (because) when I have reached it, I will become a man. If I succeed in reaching God, then I shall have received true mercy and I shall have become a human being.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, quoted in the Divine office readings).
Ignatius, martyred during Trajan’s reign in the first century, was bishop of Syria when he was condemned to death. After his arrest, he wrote seven letters to his flock which have come down to us as testimony to the true Catholic faith. After the evangelists, Ignatius is considered the first theologian of the Church.
He talks of himself as dying only to rise to the fullness of life, to the Light of Christ himself. Only then will he become “a man.” By God’s mercy he will become a “human being.” What an unusual way to describe his passing from this life to the next! This “man” is the new human being in the pattern of Him who became man and pitched his tent among us.
At the time, Ignatius had heard talk about rescuing him from his impending martyrdom and Ignatius would tolerate none of this kind of talk. He pleaded with the Catholic Church (his word) not to prevent him from giving his life for the new one promised by Christ.
Rising to a new life in Jesus is our goal, too. It is a fulfillment of the Father’s plan to recreate us in Christ as His sons and daughters. “Que viva Christo Rey!”