The soul is immortal, say St. Augustine, but in a sense it dies when God withdraws from it. This is the real death to fear—not the death of the body when the soul leaves it, but the death of the soul when God leaves it.
But I see that I must speak a little more carefully of the nature of death.
We are right to say that the human soul is immortal, but it does have a certain death of its own. We call the soul immortal because in a sense it never stops living and feeling. On the other hand, we call the body mortal, because it can be forsaken of all life, and cannot live at all by itself.
The death of the soul, then, takes place when God forsakes it, just as the death of the body takes place when the soul forsakes it. Therefore the death of both—that is, of the whole person—happens when the soul, forsaken by God, forsakes the body. For in this case God is not the life of the soul, and the soul is not the life of the body.
This death of the whole person is followed by what we call, on the authority of Scripture, the second death. This is what the Savior meant when he said, “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). –St. Augustine, City of God, 13.2IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
Do I spend more time worrying about bodily health than about spiritual health?
Lord, though I have sinned against you, you have not neglected or forsaken me. Give me the peace of heaven in my heart, but also, if it is your will, grant me peace in this life.
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