Ignatius, the patriarch of Antioch, is traditionally considered to have been a disciple of John the Apostle. This reading is taken from his Letter to the Ephesians, written on his way to martyrdom in Rome, ca. AD 108.

Our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit. He was born and was baptized in order that by his suffering he might cleanse the water.

John August Swanson, Shepherds, 1985 All artwork © 2021 John August Swanson | Eyekons

Now the virginity of Mary and her giving birth were hidden from the ruler of this age, as was also the death of the Lord – three mysteries to be loudly proclaimed, yet which were accomplished in the silence of God.

How, then, were they revealed to the ages?

John August Swanson, Shepherds, 1988

A star shone forth in heaven brighter than all the stars; its light was indescribable and its strangeness caused amazement. All the rest of the constellations, together with the sun and moon, formed a chorus around the star, yet the star itself far outshone them all, and there was perplexity about the origin of this strange phenomenon, which was so unlike the others.

Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life; and what had been prepared by God began to take effect. As a result, all things were thrown into ferment, because the abolition of death was being carried out.

John August Swanson, Epiphany, 1988

Trans. Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers (Baker Academic, 2007). Used by permission.

About the artist:
John August Swanson (1938–2021)
John August Swanson, who died in September 2021, once said his art is about bringing stories to life, infusing the world with a vision of the holy, and discovering the divine in the everyday. His art reflects the gift of storytelling he inherited from his Mexican mother and his Swedish father. John’s narrative art explores the cultural roots of our human experience and the religious stories that are the foundation of the Christian faith.