AFTER ALL THE APOSTLES had died, the believers looked to their successors to continue their work. These successors were those disciples who had actually traveled and preached with the Apostles and held fast to the Traditions that had been given to them by word or epistle (II Thess. 2:15). One of these successors was a disciple of the Apostle John named Ignatius (106). He was a little boy at the time of Christ. It is recorded that he was the little child that Christ set in the midst of the disciples when He said: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever shall humble hi myself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:2). When Ignarius grew up he became the Bishop of Antioch, the city where the disciples of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Eventually he was imprisoned for refusing to worship the pagan gods. Although he was a prisoner facing death, he wrote several epistles to the churches to which Paul had written earlier, such as the Ephesians and the Romans.
Soon afterwards he was taken to the arena where he was eaten alive by wild beasts, and gave his soul into the hands of God.
Another of the Apostles’ successors was Lazarus, whom Christ raised from the dead (John 11:1). After the day of Pentecost, Lazarus traveled with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, throughout the Mediterranean and settled on the island of Crete. Here he spread the Christian faith as one of the first bishops of the Church. Later he and his sisters went to preach the Gospel in France. Lazarus was known to have said that ever since he was raised from the dead he had a bitter taste in his mouth that reminded him of death and the final judgment, which every soul will face. He died peacefully as a saint, no longer tasting any bitterness, for there is no bitterness in Heaven.
Mary Magdalene was another disciple of Christ who became an equal to the Apostles. After the day of Pentecost she traveled to Rome and appeared before the Emperor Tiberias Caesar, greeting him with the words: “Christ is Risen!” referring to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. She then presented him with a red egg as a symbol of the new life that was given to the human race through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. From that day on eggs were always used in the celebration of the great feast of Pascha (commonly known as Easter). Before the Emperor she also denounced Pontius Pilate for his unjust condemnation of Jesus Christ. Caesar heeded her and transferred Pilate from Jerusalem to Gaul, where he died from a terrible illness. Leaving Rome, she traveled to Ephesus and helped the Apostle John. Here, she peacefully went to the Lord Whom she had served so faithfully.
Other disciples who continued the work of the Apostles were St. Clement of Rome and St. Polycarp. St. Clement was brought to the Faith by the Apostles Barnabas and Peter, who appointed him bishop of Rome; and he later suffered a martyr’s death in the Crimea near Cherson. St. Polycarp was a pagan who had been brought to the Faith and baptized by the Apostle John. Both Clement and Polycarp wrote epistles that still exist today.
Also at that time there was a man named Dionysius in Athens, Greece (Acts 17:34). When Christ breathed His last on the Cross, St. Dionysius beheld the sun darkened although he was miles away, and said: “Either God the Creator of the world is suffering or the world is end and saw that the people there had an altar to “the unknown God.” Paul then openly said to those gathered: The One Whom you ignorantly worship, Him I proclaim unto you (Acts 17:22), and began to tell them about the One True God Who gave His life for the world. Dionysius happened to be present and was moved in his soul to embrace the Christian Faith. He was then baptized by Paul and became a bishop of Gaul (France), residing in Paris.
Through these holy men and women the continuity of the Orthodox Church was preserved, even during those times of great persecution.