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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Instability of the World (St. John of Kronstadt)


By St. John of Kronstadt

The ten virgins, of which five were wise and five foolish, symbolize us Christians. Some of us are wise because of our faith, our virtuous life, and because we are prepared for our death; others are foolish due to their unbelief or cold indifference to the faith, their impure carnal life, and their being unprepared for their death and the judgment that will immediately follow it, "for it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). The foolish ones, it is said, took their lamps but did not take oil with them. What do the lamps and the oil for the lamps mean? The the Saviour’s words: "the lamp of the body is the eye" (Matt 6:22), by “eye” He means the heart of man, or soul. The oil symbolizes alms, according to St John Chrysostom’s interpretation, or good deeds in general. Therefore, the foolish Christians, going out to meet the bridegroom, did not prepare for their souls good deeds, which could have supported their spiritual life. The wise ones, it is said, took oil in their vessels with their lamps, meaning that they stocked up on good deeds in order to worthily meet the bridegroom. Who is the bridegroom? Jesus Christ. When and how do we go out to meet Him? Our entire lives must be since their beginning a preparation for our personal meeting with Him, because every soul after its death must appear and answer before Him, as to the Author of our life. Throughout our lives we must take care to acquire and preserve in our hearts a living faith and an ardent love for God, so that after our deaths standing before the terrible throne of the Lord of glory will neither be shameful nor to our condemnation. We will go out for the general meeting with Him during our resurrection from the dead, when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28–29). The bridegroom, that is, Jesus Christ, is in no hurry to cut our lives short with death, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), and is equally delaying His glorious, and dreadful, second coming so that the sons of the kingdom may multiply more and more.

Meanwhile, people, temporarily seduced by the sweetness of sin, by its impunity, and seeing that the world remains stable, think it will remain as such forever, and they themselves, enjoying robust health and other material goods, immerse themselves in spiritual slumber, not caring for their correction, and thus sleep the sleep of sin. However, precisely at the midnight of their sinful sleep, when none among the sinners thinks about the grave dangers in which they find themselves, a loud voice is heard: "Behold, the bridegroom comes, go out to meet Him!" Then all will tremble and light their lamps, that is, will exert spiritual attention. At that time it will be good for the wise Christians: their souls will ignite with the sweetest love for God; but for the foolish, it will be bad. Their souls, like lamps without oil, will die out, that is, they will grow dark and cold from the lack of love for God, the source of love, and will start to taste the torments of hell. They will ask the wise Christians for oil, that is, for good deeds, but those will not give it to them, so that they also may not be opportunities to do them, however, precisely at this time when they wish to do good deeds, the bridegroom will come, death will catch them by surprise, and will place them before the heavenly Judge without any virtues whatsoever, reeking of the filth of their own lawlessness. They will desire to go inside the bridal chamber of the heavenly kingdom, which all of us from birth are destined to enter, the reason for which we live. Their Lord will not allow them to enter, and will say to them: "I do not know you." Watch therefore, the Lord concludes the parable, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Now all of us understand the church hymn: “Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is that servant,” that is, every Christian, “whom He shall find watching, and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless (sleeping the sleep of sin). Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep (that is, do not be weighed down with the sleep of sin), lest you be given up to (eternal) 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.” Amen.

(Excerpt From Season of Repentance, Lenten Homilies of St. John of Kronstadt: Homily 30, On the Hymn “Behold, the Bridegroom Comes at Midnight”)



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