Friday, October 03, 2008

An Onion and an Angel

In The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, which is my book of 2008 apparently (and if any, what better than it?), Grushenka tells Alyosha a parable. The context offers rich and dense layers to the parable, but I give it to you stripped of it and them. I share it with you because it was the very first page I read on the feast day of our guardian angels. We are interconnected, you and I - and all people and things. This is a very small onion, and you may wonder at it, but it is for you.

Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died. And not one good deed was left behind her. The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire. And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell God? Then he remembered and said to God: once she pulled up an onion and gave it to a beggar woman. And God answered: now take that same onion, hold it out to her in the lake, let her take hold of it, and pull, and if you pull her out of the lake she can go to paradise, but if the onion breaks, she can stay where she is. The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her: here, woman, he said, take hold of it and I'll pull. And he began pulling carefully, and had almost pulled her all the way out, when other sinners in the lake saw her being pulled out and all began holding on to her so as to be pulled out with her. But the woman was wicked as wicked could be, and she began to kick them with her feet: "It's me who's getting pulled out, not you; it's my onion, not yours." No sooner did she say it than the onion broke. And the woman fell back into the lake and is burning there to this day. And the angel wept and went away.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (New York: Farrar, 1990), 352.


Fred said...

I love this one!

Scott Lyons said...

Me too, Fred.

I've been reading this book more as a devotional recently than as a novel. I need to sit down and immerse myself - it's hard with so many crumb crunchers running around.