Hilda of Whitby vs. Ignatius of Antioch

Welcome back, friends, to Lent Madness and the third match-up in the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. We'll continue all week with this round featuring quirks and quotes from our saintly contestants. Today Hilda of Whitby takes on Ignatius of Antioch in a clash of influential figures about 600 years apart. To get to this point, Hilda routed Samuel Seabury and Ignatius came out victorious in the Battle of the Iggys by slipping past Ignatius of Loyola.

We did our best to help keep your weekend bout with Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) at bay. Because we care, we...

1. Shared some creative ways parishes are using Lent Madness in a post titled Creative Juices Overfloweth.

2. Linked to an article about Lent Madness taking over the entire state of South Dakota (we're still waiting on confirmation that the members of the Supreme Executive Committee will be added to Mount Rushmore).

3. Found out from the conservative website The Daily Caller that Lent Madness is part of a liberal conspiracy and may be responsible for the downfall of the Obama Administration. (Don't read the comments that follow if you have a weak stomach).

Our goal for this week, in addition to the usual Madness, is to get over 5,000 likes on Facebook. There's no reason, with your help, that we can't achieve this milestone. If you're on Facebook but have't yet liked us, you're missing some bonus material and links to get you through the day. (It's kind of like getting the deleted scenes on a movie DVD). We're hovering in the low 4,700's right now. Come on, people!

icon_st_hilda2Hilda of Whitby

Hilda (614-680) was the founding Abbess of the Monastery in Whitby, England. The source of our information about Hilda’s life is from the Venerable Bede’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English -- we have no surviving direct quotes from Hilda herself. According to Bede, Hilda was brought up in the court of King Edwin of Northumbria after her father, the king’s brother, was poisoned when Hilda was an infant. She was baptized along with King Edwin and his entire court in 627.

Bede tells us that Hilda's widowed mother, Breguswith, had a dream in which her daughter's destiny was foretold. In this dream she suddenly became aware that her husband was missing and, after a frantic yet fruitless search, she found a valuable necklace under her dress. When she gazed upon the jewel it brilliantly illuminated all of England. This vision was interpreted as foreshadowing the light Hilda was destined to shine on British Christianity.

As a young woman Hilda entered a convent, influenced by St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne. In 657 she founded the monastery in Whitby, where she remained until her death. Bede describes her as a woman of great energy, wisdom, and a skilled administrator. Many kings and princes sought her council and it is no accident that the Synod of Whitby was held at her monastery in 664. It was here that the church in England decided to follow the Roman rather than the Celtic path, a decision that would impact the course of Christianity in Great Britain.

Legend has it that when snakes infested the town of Whitby, Hilda’s prayer turned the snakes into stones. Here’s a verse by Sir Walter Scott commemorating this event:

When Whitby’s nuns exalting told,
Of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When Holy Hilda pray’d:
Themselves, without their holy ground,
Their stony folds had often found.

As Bede writes in his hagiography of Hilda:

Thus this servant of Christ, Abbess Hilda, whom all that knew her called Mother, for her singular piety and grace, was not only an example of good life, to those that lived in her monastery, but afforded occasion of amendment and salvation to many who lived at a distance, to whom the fame was brought of her industry and virtue; for it was necessary that the dream which her mother had, during her infancy, should be fulfilled.


Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, and was martyred during the 1st-century. His series of letters, written as he was carried under guard to his death at Rome, provide key insight into the Early Church’s understanding of church unity, ecclesiology, and the sacraments.

Even as he was facing the near certainty of his death at Rome, Ignatius appears to have kept his own unique sense of humor as he wrote his letters. While writing to the Church at Ephesus, he opined on a few newly found fashion accessories:

Let nothing appeal to you apart from Jesus Christ, in whom I carry around these chains (my spiritual pearls!), by which I hope, through your prayers, to rise again.

While his letters show no sign that Ignatius ever owned any pets of his own, one of Ignatius’ statements reveals that he might have had great sympathy for any cat owner who just can’t seem to get their pet to act nicely:

I am fighting with wild beasts, on land and sea, by night and day, chained amidst ten leopards (that is, a company of soldiers) who only get worse when they are well treated. Yet because of their mistreatment I am becoming more of a disciple; nevertheless I am not thereby justified.

Among the common threads uniting Ignatius’ letters is his plea for unity within the church. In his letter to the Ephesians, he presents a stunning image of the church as a choir:

In your unanimity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. You must join this chorus, every one of you, so that by being harmonious in unanimity and taking your pitch from God you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, in order that he may both hear you and, on the basis of what you do well, acknowledge that you are members of his Son. It is, therefore, advantageous for you to be in perfect unity, in order that you may always have a share in God.

Legends also abound about Ignatius; one holds that he was among the children taken into Jesus’ arms in Matthew 19. Another says that even as Ignatius was tortured before his death, he never ceased to proclaim Jesus. His tormenters are said to have demanded why Ignatius insisted, to his own detriment, to continue to preach Jesus Christ. Ignatius responded: “Know for certain that I have this name written in my heart, and therefore I cannot proclaim any other name.” After his martyrdom by lions, the legend holds that Ignatius’ body was opened and that Jesus’ name was found inscribed, in letters of gold, on his heart.

Legend or not, it is certain that Christ and the church never were far from Ignatius’ heart, for it was in service of both that Ignatius ultimately gave his life.

-- David Sibley


HIlda of Whitby vs. Ignatius of Antioch

  • Hilda of Whitby (54%, 2,049 Votes)
  • Ignatius of Antioch (47%, 1,781 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,829

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135 comments on “Hilda of Whitby vs. Ignatius of Antioch”

      1. If you click on "Maple Anglican" in the post above, it takes you to the Maple Anglican web site. Click on the word "here" in the paragraph about YouTube, and that will take you to the video.

        1. Thank you, Peg. I got as far as the web site, but I have a congenital dislike for 2-step searches when one will do (as it has done in the previous postings) and dropped it. Maybe Maple will go back to putting the direct link right in the posting.

  1. Ignatius' metaphor as the church as a choir along with the martyrdom by lion win my vote. And today this quote will come in handy as I face consistent pressure to convert to the Muslim faith: “Know for certain that I have this name [Jesus Christ] written in my heart, and therefore I cannot proclaim any other name.” Amen!

    1. I am sorry to read that you are facing "consistent pressure to convert to the Muslim faith." I hope you will find much support for your ownd wishes and desires.

    2. This also drew me to Ignatius. To stand so sure and firm in faith in the face of certain death......WOW!

    3. Mary Ellen, my sister, thank you for sharing the difficult struggle you are enduring. As you face the pressure to convert, please know that you are loved and supported by your Christian brothers and sisters; please continue to speak of this struggle to a priest and within a Christian community.
      As you say "convert" may I assume you are baptized? As a baptized child of the infinitely-loving God, you are safely "marked as Christ's own forever," "sealed by the Holy Spirit," forgiven and raised to a new life of grace. With an " inquiring and discerning heart," a heart that is open to God's grace and truth through Jesus, you have freedom. And I say again you are not alone in your struggle with what appears to be unwelcome pressure on you to convert to the Muslim faith. Those among us who hear your concern are your fellow baptized Christians. All are a part of the Baptismal Covenant in which promises are made as we are fully initiated into "Christ's Body the Church." As your brothers and sisters in the Covenant, it is our duty and pleasure to help you and each other to "grow in the knowledge and love of God." Thus we say, "persevere in resisting evil" that would pull you against your will away from God in Jesus Christ, and "whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord", living freely in the "fullness of -God's- peace and glory," continuing "in the breaking of bread" and "the apostles' teaching and fellowship."
      But there is more...you yourself will find strength by proclaiming to others "by word and example the Good News of God in Christ." "Respect the dignity of all human beings", serve Christ! Follow, obey, and share Jesus as our Lord. I believe it was our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori who wrote, "The [Baptismal] promises remind us we are not yet perfect, that we are called to move deeper in our faith and make a difference in the world." (TEC website, 1/16/12) (source on "Holy Baptism" in the Book of Common Prayer, 298-314)
      A prayer: "Almighty God, comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them to the joy of your salvation." We pray especially for Mary Ellen. "Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer." (BCP, 389)

    4. God bless you, Mary Ellen, for your faithfulness to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
      You will continue to be in our prayers. We also pray for those who are pressuring
      you, that they too may embrace the Truth.

  2. There’s a pub in London called the "Prospect of Whitby”. I like the food and atmosphere there. Hilda reminds me of Hildegard of Bingen whose music I love. And ... "it was necessary that the dream which her mother had, during her infancy, should be fulfilled.” by her ultimate triumph in Lent Madness. Pax ya’ll.

    1. Yes, indeed, both are worhty of praise, but for his writings on the sacraments showing how the very Early Church viewed and practiced them I have to give more than a nod to Ignatius of Antioch.
      And, also since I am still being perfected but not perfect old wounds sometime reopen. If Hilda had anything to do with taking on Roman ways and losing the Celtic Way in the Church in and of the British Isles besides the synod happening at Whitby then I have a bone to pick with her.

  3. It looks like Hilda was so busy doing, she didn't have time to write, so others wrote about her - and made her sound pretty sound.

  4. I like both quite a bit. But the fact that Hilda's mother was named Breguswith (what a name!) swayed me.

  5. How interesting that today's front page news story is about Sheryl Sandberg writing about women in leadership positions and then I open Lent Madness to read of Hilda of Whitby,(680 - 614),and her great influence on Kings, Princes and general society. Hilda was described as "a woman of great energy, wisdom and a skilled administrator."
    One wonders what advice Saint Hilda might offer us if she could do a TED talk.

  6. Ignatius going to Rome wanting to be eaten by lions! not for me. Also it was because of Ignatius calling eucharist the medicine of immortality that the liturgy revisers for the 1979 prayer book shifted from saying "bread of life" to "bread of heaven" - I'm for Hilda!

  7. Have to go with Hilda again. I visited Whitby for a couple of days in July 2011 and found the site of the medieval monastery to be a peaceful and blessed place, one of the best preserved monastic ruins in Britain. I'll vote for Hilda in honor of that visit.

  8. Nice to know that you are getting press form every corner of the 4th Estate-- even the ones who support by trying to make you look bad!

  9. I swing toward Ignatius since he speaks clearly to my condition today. The cat, once afraid of every human noise, now won't get out of my chair. Also, anyone eaten by lions has the edge in my contemplations.

  10. With apologies to folks who have pet snakes, I voted for Hilda because she immobilized the ones that were bothersome. A skill I wish I possessed when walking through midwestern woods.

  11. My fear and dislike of snakes, puts Hilda in the vote column for me. I have to admit that even with this it was tough decision.

  12. Didn't ignatius invent presbyters? After that, the whole church expects all the church's work to be done by the ordained. That makes him, along with Augustine and Constantine (concentration on heaven and property respectively) one of the great villains of Christianity.

  13. Pope Hilda I... what's the difference between Celtic. And Roman Catholicism? . Respect for women?...

    1. um, the date of Easter and the way the monks cut their hair. Srsly. I can see the Easter date being a big deal, but it could explain why there are several (maybe even 10s) of different Queen's Birthday holidays throughout the Commonwealth. Kind of a post-Reformation neener-neener....

    1. As the wife of a deacon, I'm torn as to whether this quote should sway my vote for or against Ignatius. 😉

  14. I have to go with the humble Christian whose wise counsel was sought out by many to the volunteer martyr who seemed more focused on his own immortality. Go Hilda!

  15. Good to have Lent Madness back. Can U believe I watched basketball this weekend. No replacement for the "nail biting " excitement, and anticipation of Lent madness. The Holy Fool.....Goes with HILDA.....

  16. Every year on the Sunday closest to the Feast of Hilda (Nov. 18), we have a Celtic-inspirited service of Holy Eucharist to honor our matron saint. I've always believed Hilda was more concerned with the welfare of her community and the body of faithful than she was tied to her personal prayer style. Go Hilda!

  17. Hilda was a wise woman who managed an abbey, and provided spiritual guidance through the centuries to millions. She has my vote.

  18. Another hard decision. These match-ups are getting grizzly. I went for Hilda again and am praying for Mary Ellen.