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Home » Daily Gospel, Daily Readings

Keeping Your Lamps Alight

Submitted by on Friday, 26 August 2011No Comment


Today’s Readings

  • Reading I:  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 97
  • Gospel Reading:  Matthew 25:1-13

Parable of the Ten Virgins

The parable of the ten virgins is precisely that: a parable. A parable is a literary device dear to our Lord that makes us, the hearers, examine our own attitudes towards the Kingdom of God by means of a short story. In this short story, the attention is not so much on the bridegroom who comes, but on the bridesmaids who wait for his coming. The parable is about two groups of bridesmaids, with the emphasis on "group" because the story must lead to a communitarian examination of conscience. (Matthew is fond of "groups"– for example, where Mark has just one demoniac, Matthew has two). Finally, the story concludes in such a way that the hearer (or reader) must begin to think: "to which group do I belong?" The only time that the bridegroom speaks in the story is when he says: " I do not know you…" And the statement is not only directed to the five foolish virgins, but to the readers as well, since they are listening to the words from behind the back, as it were, of the foolish virgins.

The virgins/bridesmaids. We can think of the main characters of the story as a group of virgins/bridesmaids which is classified into two sub-groups: the foolish and the wise. The group is in waiting for the bridegroom to open the door for him and then, to accompany him to his wedding and presumably to take part in the wedding banquet. "Wedding," and "banquet" are symbols that refer to the last day, that moment when the Lord will finally come to establish his throne. These are apocalyptic symbolisms that speak of the great joy that is reserved for those who have been waiting for the Lord.


Foolish/wise. It must be immediately noted that the contrast here is not the traditional "just-unjust" but between "foolish" and "wise." And what distinguishes the virgins/bridesmaids is whether they have extra oil for their lamps or not! The wise virgins brought with them extra oil for their lamps. The foolish ones did not. And so, when the moment finally came for them to greet the Bridegroom with lighted lamps, the foolish ones had to go out and buy replenishments for their lamps. Hence, when the Bridegroom arrived, only the wise bridesmaids were found to be waiting, the foolish ones being away in the marketplace buying oil for their lamps.

Sleep. All the virgins "began to get sleepy." "Sleepiness" is not a virtue in the Gospels. James, Peter and John grew sleepy during the Transfiguration, and therefore, were not able to comprehend the meaning of the encounter between the Lord, Moses and Elijah. The apostles slept at the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus prayed alone, confronting His Hour. (The Marcan detail that narrates how Jesus slept at the prow of the boat while the disciples were battling the winds and the stormy sea is not meant to be understood in the same way. And so also with the "sleep" of Lazarus). The sleepiness of the ten virgins is due to the long wait. "The Bridegroom delayed his coming." From the story’s conclusion, the sleepiness of the five wise virgins did not matter; but it did matter for the foolish ones. They did not use the "extra" time (the time of the delay) to buy for themselves the "extra" oil.

The loud shout. Here is a detail in the story that a casual reader would miss out: the loud shout announced the coming of the Bridegroom (and presumably, it is the shout that awakened the sleeping virgins.) St. Paul tells us that the coming of the Lord will be preceded by a shout – the announcement of his arrival. The detail is of secondary importance to the story, but it does mark the parable as referring to the last days.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
View in: NAB NIV KJV Vulg Greek
1For the rest therefore, brethren, we pray and beseech you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us, how you ought to walk, and to please God, so also you would walk, that you may abound the more.
2For you know what precepts I have given to you by the Lord Jesus.
3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you should abstain from fornication;
4That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour:
5Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God:
6And that no man overreach, nor circumvent his brother in business: because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we have told you before, and have testified.
7For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto sanctification.
8Therefore, he that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who also hath given his holy Spirit in us.
Matthew 25:1-13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.
2And five of them were foolish, and five wise.
3But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them:
4But the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps.
5And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept.
6And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him.
7Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.
9The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.
11But at last come also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us.
12But he answering said: Amen I say to you, I know you not.
13Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.

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