May 28, 2022

Dialogue on the Nature of the Soul (St. Andrew the Fool for Christ)

Epiphanios said to [Andrew], "I beg you, if I have found favour with you, tell me what the soul of man is like, for although I too know her nature, I do not trust my own assumptions as I will trust the divine words you speak to me."

The blessed man answered, "My son, the soul of man, she is everything. She is the life or even, if I may say so, the god of this flesh of our earthly body, and nothing else. For God gave to her the power of giving it life and guiding it and quickening and refreshing it with her warmth. Without her our bodies are mud and dust and ashes."

Epiphanios said, "I know this too, but I am asking what the essence of the soul is, what her appearance is after she has left the body and what the sinful soul is like and what the divine token is of the just soul."

The blessed man answered, "The essence of the soul is an intellectual spirit, light and most wise, an altogether intelligent and very fine spirit, calm, pleasant, quiet, very gentle, worked as if with a lathe into a kind of invisible limbs, beautiful and pleasant beyond description, entirely comely and highly agreeable to God and the choirs of the holy angels. At the beginning all men are shining clearer than the sun, but as we grow up and advance in age, our persons change according to how we treat them. The souls of those who live in virtue are not all equal in brilliance, but each one becomes brilliant in his soul through divine and virtuous struggles according to his endeavour.

During this time, as I said, one becomes shining according to one's struggles, and the closer one gets to God, the more one flashes forth, and the more one suffers oppressions and hardships for the Lord's sake, the more one is lifted up, approaches God, turns bright and brilliant, and becomes God through participation as a grace of the Holy Spirit. In the same way as iron is black and cold but becomes brighter the longer it stays in the fire, so it is with men: the Holy Spirit is fire, we are the black iron, and as much as we persist in our fasting, our standing in all-night prayer, our supplication and abstinence, which have been imposed upon us by the Holy Spirit, so much we become illuminated, beaming, radiant.

Consider that the same applies to the souls living in sin: at the beginning, at the moment they are laid down in the bodies of the embryos carried in the womb of their mothers they are stainless, but when they are released into life and start to sin they grow dark, and the deeper they sink, wallowing in the mire of sin, the more they become like the black ones and like ashes. Take this in spiritual sense, my son, for the instruction of your soul, because you are my very dear sparrow."

From the Life of Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ.