This evening’s theme is the need for watchfulness and preparation, lest we be called unprepared before the awesome judgment seat of Christ to render an account of ourselves. The gospel reading contrasts the efforts of the Pharisees to trick and discredit Jesus, with the forceful resistance which Christ mounts against their evil. The hymns remind us of the parable of the Ten Virgins, in which the faithful Christian is exhorted to vigilance.As our Lord Jesus Christ was going up to Jerusalem to endure His suffering, He told such parables as this to His Disciples, while addressing others to the Jews. He related the Parable of the Ten Virgins in order to encourage almsgiving, teaching, at the same time, that we should all be ready before our end.Christ calls five of them wise, since they possessed the oil of almsgiving in great abundance together with virginity. But five of them He calls foolish, because although they had virginity, they lacked the corresponding virtue of almsgiving. For this reason they were foolish, because having achieved what is greatest, they neglected the lesser, differing thereby in no respect from harlots. For harlots are overcome by the body, whereas these foolish virgins were overcome by money.Now that the night of the present life had run its course, all of the Virgins slumbered; that is, they died, for death is called sleep. While they were sleeping, a cry was uttered around the middle of the night, “Behold, the bridegroom comes; go out to meet him,” and the wise virgins, displaying an abundance of oil, entered with the Bridegroom when the doors of the bridal chamber were opened. The foolish virgins, however, not having sufficient oil, went in search of it after waking from sleep. Although the wise virgins were willing to give them oil, they were unable to do so before entering the bridal chamber, and responded: “Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go to them that sell”—that is, the poor— “and buy for yourselves” (St. Matthew 25:9). But this was not easy, since after death it is not possible either to give or to receive alms, as Abraham states in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The foolish virgins, approaching the bridal chamber in darkness, cried out as they knocked on the doors, saying: “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But the Lord Himself pronounced that dread sentence: “Go away; I know you not.” How can you see the Bridegroom when you do not have the dowry of almsgiving?
This is why the God-bearing Fathers assigned the foregoing parable to be read at this point in Great Week, for it teaches us always to be vigilant and ready to meet the true Bridegroom through good deeds, and especially almsgiving, since the day and hour of our end is uncertain. Likewise, through the story of Joseph we are taught to strive for chastity, and through that of the fig tree to bring forth spiritual fruit. For he who accomplishes a single virtue, even if it be the greatest, while overlooking the others—and in particular, almsgiving—will not enter with Christ into eternal rest, but will be turned back in disgrace. There is, indeed, nothing more pitiful or ignominious than virginity that has succumbed to love of money.
Yea, O Christ the Bridegroom, number us with the wise virgins, join us to Your elect flock, and have mercy on us. Amen.