”Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, / And blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching, / And again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. / Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, / Lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. / But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God, / Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.” (Troparion-Hymn of “Bridegroom Matins” on Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday)
This hymn, chanted in our churches at the morning-service of the first three days of this Holy and Great Week of our Lord’s passion, refers to the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25: 1-13). In that well-known parable, there are five “wise“ virgins, signifying those of us who are well-prepared, with “oil“ in our “lamps,“ or with God’s mercy and compassion in our hearts, when our “Bridegroom,“ Jesus Christ, arrives to invite us “in“ to His feast. There are also five “foolish“ virgins, who, like me, are not thus prepared.
So Jesus is the intended “Bridegroom“ of all of us, – of the Church. Because what He seeks with each of us is union, or, more specifically, “communion.“ As St. Paul says about the marital union, “This is a great mystery, and I am talking about Christ and His Church“ (Eph 5: 32).
Even if I’ve been “foolish“ thus far, let me not be discouraged. Let me be “roused“ at this point, opening my heart to God’s mercy and compassion, as I am called in this beautiful hymn. My Bridegroom “comes“ at the end of this week “at midnight,“ on the night of His glorious Resurrection, when we will be greeting Him, singing, “Christ is risen from the dead…“ As I prepare for Pascha, I depend not on my own prayers or virtues for my “oil,“ but appeal to one Virgin wiser and more compassionate than all other “wise“ virgins, the Mother of God: “Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.“