THE PARABLE OF THE 10 VIRGINS
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Mt 25: 1-13)
The whole point of this parable is in its final words: “Watch therefore…” It’s about vigilance, or keeping aflame that little fire in my heart, which sheds God’s light on my “night,” and helps me to recognize Christ, the Bridegroom, wherever and whenever He “comes,” even amidst the darkness of this world. I can keep up this fire not by external church-status (say, by being one of the few “virgins” at the Bridegroom’s “wedding”), nor by depending on the wisdom of other human beings. I am called to keep up this fire, entrusted to me in Holy Baptism, by fostering it with “oil,” that is, the grace of the Holy Spirit, on a daily and hourly basis.
We focus on this parable, about vigilance, during these first three weekdays of Holy Week (when we celebrate “Bridegroom Matins”), because our “Paschal Vigil” or anticipation of Pascha is intensifying, as we near the Feast of Feasts. Let me turn now, not to other people, but to One Who can and does nurture me with His “oil,” when I open my heart to Him in humble honesty, as I am. “I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me.”