Advent, Day 17

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

—Matthew 25:1–13

LOOK: Byzantine fresco of the Parable of the Ten Virgins

Parable of the Ten Virgins
Parable of the Ten Virgins, ca. 1600. Fresco, Chapel of the Virgin, Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Chora, Patmos, Greece.

LISTEN: “ها هوذا الختن” (“Behold the Bridegroom”), a troparion (short hymn) in Arabic from the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Syria

من الليل تبتكر روحي إليك يا الله لإنّ أوامرك نورٌ على الأرض.

ها هوذا الختن يأتي في نصف الليل فطوبى للعبد الذي يجده مستيقظا، أما الذي يجده متغافلا فهو غير مستحق. فانظري يا نفسي ألا تستغرقي في النوم ويغلق عليك خارج الملكوت وتسلمي إلى الموت، بل كوني منتبهة صارخة : قدوس قدوس قدوس أنت يا الله، من أجل والدة الإله ارحمنا.

English translation:

My spirit seeks you early in the night watches, for your commandments are a light on the earth. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant he shall find awake and watching; but unworthy is the one he shall find neglectful. Beware, therefore, O my soul. Be not overcome by sleep, lest you be given over to death and shut out from the kingdom. But return to soberness and cry aloud, “Holy, holy, holy are you, our God.” Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

In Orthodox churches the parable of the ten virgins is read, and “Behold the Bridegroom” sung, on Tuesday of Holy Week. In the West, however, the parable is associated more with Advent, since its focus is on Christ’s return.

(Related post: “Clever Maids” by Thomas J. O’Gorman)

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