Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria, a large early Christian center, was put to death during the reign of the Emperor Trajan in the 3rd century. Like the Apostle Paul, he was led by soldiers to Rome, and he died there in the Colosseum, devoured by wild animals.
Traveling to Rome, he managed to write seven letters to important Christian churches along the way. The letters show the bishop’s skill as a teacher and writer. He must have been an eloquent preacher and spokesman for the church.
But In his letter to the Christians at Ephesus, you can sense his realization that his days for words are coming to an end. He’s being silenced.
However, words aren’t important, Ignatius writes: faith and “ being faithful to the end,” are what count. “It is better to remain silent and to be than to talk and not be. Teaching is good if the teacher also acts. One teacher ‘spoke, and it was made,’ and even what he did in silence is worthy of the Father.
He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence…”
What does Ignatius mean? The Word of God silent? Indeed, in his early years at Nazareth, he’s mostly silent. Before his baptism in the Jordan by John Jesus is silent, until the voice of the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
Then, he taught during his public ministry, but many didn’t hear him at all. Finally, when he’s arrested and taken to die on the cross, the evangelists carefully note that Jesus was silent.
Silence is part of facing the mystery of God. Some things cannot be known or explained here and now. Like Haiti. Why? God is silent. Again, Ignatius:
“He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence.”