|Parable of the virgins. Fresco by Dionysy.|
He told the parable of the ten virgins to call attention to almsgiving, at the same time teaching that every man must be ready before the end comes. He had spoken many times to them about chastity. Virginity is held in great honor, because it is indeed a great thing. Yet, lest anyone, while practicing this one virtue, neglect the others, and particularly love, by which the lamp of virginity is given light, he will be put to shame by the Lord. The Holy Gospel introduces this parable, calling five of the virgins wise, because they represent readiness to practice both love and virginity, and five of them foolish because, though they had virginity, they did not have love commensurate with it. They are foolish, therefore, because they practiced a great virtue yet neglected one that is easier and were reckoned as being no better than harlots; the latter were defeated by bodily pleasures, whereas the former, by possessions.
As the night of the present life was going by, all the virgins fell asleep, that is, they died, for death is called a sleep. While they were sleeping, a cry rang out in the middle of the night, "Behold, the Bridegroom is coming; go out to meet Him!" (Matt. 25:6). Those who had their oil ready and lamps trimmed went inside to the Bridegroom when the doors were opened. Earlier, the others, who had insufficient oil after their sleep, had asked the first for oil. The wise virgins wished to give them some, but could not. Before they went inside, they replied, "No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (Matt. 25:9). 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 (See Matt. 25:10). The foolish virgins knocked on the doors and called out, "Lord, Lord, open to us" (Matt. 25:11). But the Lord Himself uttered the terrible reply: "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you" (Matt. 25:12). For how can you see the Bridegroom if you lack the dowry of mercy? On account of this depiction, the parable of the ten virgins was given its place here by our God-bearing Fathers to teach us always to be watchful and ready to meet the true Bridegroom with good works, especially almsgiving, because the day and hour of the end are unknown to us. Therefore, it is made quite clear that after death, correction of mistakes and wicked acts shall be impossible, a teaching which is also found in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. (See Luke 16:19-31)
In the same way, we are taught by the All-comely Joseph to practice chastity and by the fig tree to produce spiritual fruit at all times. He who practices one virtue - and a great one indeed - but neglects the others, especially love, does not enter into eternal life with Christ but is turned back and is put to shame. There is nothing sadder and more shameful than to see virginity set at naught by possessions.
O Christ our Bridegroom, unite us with the wise virgins and join us to Your chosen flock, and have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Troparion of the Bridegroom
Behold! The bridegroom approaches in the middle of the night,
And blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching;
But unworthy he whom He shall find careless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul.
Be not overcome with sleep,
lest thou be given over to death and shut outside the kingdom.
But arise and cry:
Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O God!
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!
Kontakion, Tone 2
Understanding that this is the final hour,
and fearing the cutting down of the fig tree,
work diligently with the talent given thee, O wretched soul,
be vigilant and cry:
May we not be left outside the bridal chamber of Christ.
Ikos: Why art thou slothful, O my wretched soul? Why do useless cares occupy thy thoughts amiss? Why dost thou busy thyself with things that pass away? The final hour is at hand, and we shall be parted from all earthly things. Therefore, while there is yet time, rouse thyself and cry: I have sinned before Thee, O my Saviour. Do not cut me down like the barren fig tree. In Thy compassion, O Christ, take pity on me who call out with fear: May we not be left outside the bridal chamber of Christ.
The Exapostilarion (The Hymn of Light)
Thy bridal chamber, O my Savior, I see adorned,
and I have no raiment with which to enter therein.
Enlighten the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.