Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daily - 8/27/09

Matthew 25:1-13

1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

3 The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them,

4 but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

5 Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'

7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.

8 The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'

9 But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.'

10 While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.

11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!'

12 But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.'

13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


So I look at today's gospel, and it's the parables of the virgins and lanterns. I rub my hands together and say OK, I'm going to do my thing and explain this thing in terms that lots of folks can understand.

One problem ... there's a lot going on in this parable and I don't have a grasp of it. For me, the big questions about this parable are:

- who are the virgins?
- what is the oil?
- why don't the wise virgins give oil to the foolish?

When I'm stumped, I like to go to the ancient church for answers. Thank goodness for Thomas Aquinas, who compiled the commentary of the ancient church into his "golden chain", the Catena Aurea. The Catena Aurea contains more than three thousand words of commentary on this parable alone. I''ve edited this down to tell the story, but it's still pretty long. Buyer beware. ---------------

Chrysostom.: And He employs the character virgins in this parable to shew, that though virginity be a great thing, yet if it be not accompanied by works of mercy, it shall be cast out with the adulterers.

Origen: Or, The understandings of all who have received the word of God are virgins. For such is the word of God, that of its purity it imparts to all, who by its teaching have departed from the worship of idols, and have through Christ drawn near to the worship of God; “Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride.” They take “their lamps,” i.e. their natural faculties, and go forth out of the world and its errors, and go to meet the Saviour, who is ever ready to come to enter with them that are worthy to His blessed bride the Church.

Augustine., “The lamps” which they carry in their hands are their works, of which it was said above, “Let your works shine before men.”

Gregory.: It is to be observed, that all have lamps, but all have not oil.

Hilary: The “oil” is the fruit of good works, the “vessels” are the human bodies in whose inward parts the treasure of a good conscience is to be laid up.

Jerome: The virgins that have oil are they who, besides their faith, have the ornament of good works - they that have not oil, are they that seem to confess with like faith, but neglect the works of virtue.

Augustine.: Or, The “oil” denotes joy, according to that, “God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness.” [Ps 45:7] He then whose joy springs not from this that he is inwardly pleasing to God, has no oil with him; for they have no gladness in their continent lives, [p. 846] save in the praises of men. “But the wise took oil with their lamps,” that is, the gladness of good works, “in their vessels,” that is, they stored it in their heart and conscience, as the Apostle speaks, “Let every man prove himself, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another.” [Gal 6:4]

Chrysostom.: Or, The “oil” denotes charity, alms, and every aid rendered to the needy; the lamps denote the gifts of virginity; and He calls them “foolish,” because after having gone through the greater toil, they lost all for the sake of a less; for it is greater labour to overcome the desires of the flesh than of money.

Origen: Or, The “oil” is the word of teaching, with which the vessels of souls are filled ; for what gives so great content as moral discourse, which is called the oil of light. The “wise” took with them of this oil, as much as would suffice, though the Word should tarry long, and be slack to come to their consummation.The, “foolish” took lamps, alight indeed at the first, but not supplied with so much oil as should suffice even to the end, being careless respecting the provision of doctrine which comforts faith, and enlightens the lamp of good deeds.

Jerome: Suddenly thus, as on a stormy night, and when all think themselves secure, at the hour when sleep is the deepest, the coming of Christ shall be proclaimed by the shout of Angels, and the trumpets of the Powers that go before Him. This is meant when it says, “Lo, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.”

Hilary: At the trumpet signal they go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, for then shall the two be one, that is, the flesh and God, when the lowliness of the flesh shall be transformed into spiritual glory.

Augustine.: Or, that the virgins go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, I think is to be understood that the virgins themselves constitute her who is called the bride - as we speak of the Christians flocking to the Church as children running to their mother, and yet this same mother consists only of the children who are gathered together. For now the Church is betrothed, and is to be led forth as a virgin to the marriage, which takes place then when all her mortal part having past away, she maybe held in an eternal union.

Origen: Or, “At midnight,” that is, at the time of their most abandoned carelessness, “there was a great cry,” of the Angels, I suppose, desiring to arouse all men, those ministering spirits crying within in the senses of all that sleep, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” All heard this summons, and arose, but all were not able to trim their lamps fitly. The lamps of the senses are trimmed by evangelical and right use of them; and they that use their senses amiss have their lamps untrimmed.

Gregory.: Or, “All the virgins arose,” that is, both elect and reprobate are roused from the sleep of death; they “trimmed their lamps,” that is, they reckon up to themselves their works for which they look to receive eternal blessedness.

Augustine.: They “trimmed their lamps,” that is, prepared to give an account of their deeds.

Gregory.: The lamps of the foolish virgins go out, because the works which appeared outwardly to men to be bright, are dimmed within at the coming of the Judge. That they then beg oil of the wise virgins, what is it but that at the coming of the Judge, when they find themselves empty within, they seek for witness from without? As though deceived by their own self-confidence, they say to their neighbours, “Whereas ye see us rejected as living without works, do ye witness to our works that ye have seen.

Chrysostom.: Or otherwise ; These virgins were foolish, not only because they departed hence, lacking store of mercy, but because they deemed to receive it from those of whom they importunately begged it. For though nothing could be more merciful than those wise virgins, who for this very mercifulness were approved, yet would they not grant the prayer of the foolish virgins. But the wise answered, saying, “Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you;” hence we learn that none of us shall be able in that day to stand forth as patron of those who are betrayed by their own works, not because he will not, but because he cannot.

Hilary: They that sell are the poor, who, needing the alms of the faithful, made them that recompense which they desire, selling in return for the relief afforded to their wants, a consciousness of good works. This is the abundant fuel of an undying light which may be bought and stored up for the fruits of mercy.

Chrysostom.: You see then how great merchants the poor are to us; but the poor are not there, but here, and therefore we must store up oil here, that we may have it to use there when occasion shall require.

Hilary: Yet though the season of repentance is now past, the foolish virgins come and beg that entrance may be granted to them.

Jerome: Their worthy confession calling Him, “Lord, Lord,” is a mark of faith. But what avails it to confess with the mouth Him whom you deny with your works?

Augustine.: For indeed we know the day and the hour neither of that future time when the Bridegroom will come, nor of our own falling asleep each of us; if then we be prepared for this latter, we shall also be prepared when that voice shall sound, which shall arouse us all.