Lead me to the Cross
by Rebecca Kozman
Today the Church focuses on the Lord as our Bridegroom, so that we may have hearts that desire Him and imitate the five wise virgins who were prepared and ready for their Bridegroom. The readings of this great and holy day surround two major themes – the difference between those who choose to follow the way of the Lord and the rest of the world, and the Kingdom for all people who have kept His promise and wait on His arrival as opposed to a specifically chosen nation.
There are two parables we should contemplate on when we view the Lord as our Bridegroom; the parable of the wedding garment, and the five wise and five foolish virgins. In the Gospel of Matthew 22:1-14, we read the first parable and find Christ comparing Heaven to a wedding banquet prepared by a king for his son. Many people were invited, but when the time for the banquet came, those who were invited refused to come and made excuses. In fact, the king’s servants who were sent to spread the invitations were mistreated and killed! The king furiously sent an army to avenge the death of his servants, as well as invitations to anyone he could find to fill the wedding banquet. But he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment, so he cast him out.
The king here is God the Father, and the son is Jesus Christ. Israel is the nation that held the invitation to the Kingdom, but when the time came for the Kingdom to appear, they refused to believe it. Many prophets and even disciples had been killed spreading this message. The king’s vengeance on the death of his servants can be interpreted as a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans. This isn’t to say that God looks for revenge, but that He is patient and will not tolerate wickedness forever. His judgement will come to those who reject His offer of salvation – His Son. The wedding invitation is offered to anyone and everyone, strangers both good and bad. The message of the Gospel is that Heaven is for everyone who accepts Christ and wears the wedding garment, a symbol of the righteous life which is united fully with the Lord. We eventually find out later in this Holy Week that Judas was the man without the heavenly garment, because he not only denied salvation but also betrayed our Lord.
The second parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins can be found in Matthew 25:1-13. This Gospel compares those who are celebrating by eating, drinking and sinning, with the ready, watchful, and righteous servants of God. This passage begins our focus on the parable of the ten virgins. This parable has a unique role in the Church as it not only prepares for Pascha but also is a daily reminder as the Gospel of the First Watch of the Midnight Hour. The context of this parable is important in order to fully understand what Christ is trying to teach us. It describes a first-century Jewish wedding, whereby the bridegroom and his close friends go to the bride’s house for a small ceremony and procession through the streets at night, before returning home. The ten virgins would have been the bridesmaids, and they expect to meet the groom as he comes to the bride’s house. Each person in the procession was expected to carry their own lamps. If they didn’t have one, they were assumed to be a party crasher and couldn’t attend the celebrations. Now, the virgins did not know when the groom would arrive to the bride’s house, so they had a lamp lit at all times, ready for him. This meant they needed to have extra oil in case their lamps burnt out. See where this is going?
In the parable, the five virgins who had extra oil represent those who are looking with eagerness for the coming of Christ. They have faith and determination to be ready at any given time. The other five virgins without the extra oil represent false believers who enjoy the things of the world without true love for Christ. They are more excited about the after-party than actually seeing the bridegroom. Their hope is that their relationship with the true believers, those who had extra oil, will bring them to the kingdom at the end. So, when the foolish virgins say, “give us some of your oil,”it means that one person’s faith cannot save another.
Christ says that His return will be like what it was in the days of Noah, where lives were centred on worldly and sinful things. We should also remember that those in the days of Noah were warned of the flood, and judgement eventually came. Those who ignored the warnings were not ready, and so it came unexpectedly.
The emphasis on constant readiness is a challenge for us. We also can appear not ready in the same ways as the evil servants. Upon His return, we must follow the Lord’s commandments and teachings, treat each other with love and not give in to worldly pleasures and desires, because the Kingdom of Heaven is much better! Don’t lose yourself to this world, give yourself to Christ and prepare yourself for His joyous coming so that you may finally be united with your Bridegroom!
May God guide you all through the rest of this Holy and Blessed Pascha Week, giving you the strength to maximise your relationship with God and fall in love with Him.