The Little Onion

Once upon a time there was a peasant woman and a very wicked woman she was. And she died and did not leave a single good deed behind. The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. So her guardian angel stood and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell to God; ‘She once pulled up an onion in her garden,’ said he, ‘and gave it to a beggar woman.’ And God answered: ‘You take that onion then, hold it out to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out. And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Paradise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.’ The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her. ‘Come,’ said he, ‘catch hold and I’ll pull you out.’ he began cautiously pulling her out. He had just pulled her right out, when the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she was being drawn out, began catching hold of her so as to be pulled out with her. But she was a very wicked woman and she began kicking them. ‘I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours.’ As soon as she said that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into the lake and she is burning there to this day. So the angel wept and went away.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

New OCR AS Spec – Augustine on Original Sin

Original Sin and its Effects on the Will and Human Societies

The will was profoundly marked by THE FALL. It is divided and therefore weak. Augustine sees the rebellious state of the will as a direct result of Adam’s sin of disobedience.

Adam’s SIN OF DISOBEDIENCE was the cause of the state in which we find ourselves – that of Original Sin. This is a hereditary stain with which we are born as a result of Adam’s sin.

Romans 5:12 is a key text:

“It was through one man that guilt came into the world; and, since death came owing to guilt, death was handed on to all mankind by one man.”

ORIGINAL SIN only deprives man of those Divine gifts to which his nature had no right; humans have not lost the possession of their natural faculties such as reason. Some of the effects of Original Sin are:

  • CONCUPISCENCE – this is the privation of the complete mastery over the passions which was a DIVINE GIFT. In other words man is no longer able to control his appetites, including his libido (sexual desire). This does not mean that the body is evil – the body is created good (see Genesis), but the will is weak and divided, and this means that the appetites can dominate – therefore the body can be overrun by gluttony, love of money and power, and sexual desire
  • DEATH OF THE BODY – Romans is clear that this is one of the results of Original Sin
  • PRIVATION OF SANCTIFYING GRACE – Death of the soul. Not only the body dies as a result of Original Sin, but humans are deprived of grace – this is holiness, and holiness is union with God. Grace is not any particular good act, but a permanent tendency towards God as we shall see. Without grace the soul cannot live, as vices grow stronger and choke its life

PRIVATION OF THE VISION OF GOD in the next life. Without the effect of grace, it is impossible to see God, as the soul’s vision is distorted by the appetites. The beatitude says:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5)

This was an excerpt from my forthcoming revision guide for Developments in Christian Thought – if you would like more material please leave an email address and I will put you on a mailing list.