Nov 8, 2020
Wise and Foolish Virgins
There are times when, on face value, it is difficult to harmonize the different sayings of Our Lord. He who said, “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), seems here to be exulting those who would not share, insisting that they are the wise.
Did not our Lord say, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:38). It seems as if the five wise virgins are in contradiction to this, or not heeding the economic “benefits” of active charity to those in need. If, as Augustine says, the oil in their lamps is the oil of charity, would it not seem that they should be sharing at this final moment? And concerning the foolish five, did not our Lord say, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10). Yet the door is locked on that final day.
In truth, there is no contradiction. This eschatological parable, the last of the many parables of the Kingdom in Matthew, points us toward the ultimate day. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding banquet, the supper most blessed, where humanity will at last enter into the fullness of intimacy with the divine Bridegroom. Like in the wedding of Cana, the bride is seemingly absent from the picture. In experience, we are always waiting upon the bride, not the bridegroom. Here, now, we wait. And all ten become tired. All sleep.
Our frail nature tends toward sleep. But for those who love, they say with the bride of the Song of Songs, “I sleep, but my heart was awake” (5:20) …”by night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves” (3:1).
What it all comes down to is the fact that each one must receive that grace, the Presence by which one experiences authentic and divine love. Those who know this love, who bask in its glory, day and night collecting the oil of the Holy Spirit and fire, are filled to overflowing. At times, yes, the well seems dry in prayer, but we could say these are the moments when oil is being poured into the flask. Like Our Lord, the Divine Bridegroom, we must be opened up and poured forth upon our beloved.
In the wedding feast of Cana, the wise Virgin, Mary, asks her Son to do this miracle of love, to be the Bridegroom who provides the wine for the celebration. He reminds her that this will lead to His hour, the moment of consummation. She, of all, who knew how to keep the oil of the Word in her heart, would consent to this olive press of the Cross.
Jesus is the Bridegroom who we must know in this life, and seek ever more fully to know. That personal intimacy is inspiring to others, but non-transferable. Each must embrace Him for oneself, each must come to love this Jesus as a bride loves her husband.