My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"BEHOLD THE BRIDEGROOM IS COMING: GO OUT
TO MEET HIM…" (St. Matthew 25:6).
Jesus said, "Then the Kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took
their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise,
and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,
but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was
delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the
bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed
their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps
are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough
for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they
went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the
wedding, and the door was shut. Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying,
‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said ‘Assuredly, I SAY TO YOU, I DO NOT
KNOW YOU.’ WATCH THEREFORE, FOR YOU KNOW NEITHER THE DAY NOR THE HOUR
IN WHICH THE Son of Man is coming." (St. Matthew 25:1-13).
In telling this Parable, our Lord uses the person of virgins to teach and illustrate to His listeners the necessity and significance of preparing spiritually for His Second Coming. The Bridegroom represents Christ in His Passion, Who dies out of unconditional love for the Church, His bride. "Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the body…just as the Church is SUBJECT TO CHRIST, so let the wives be to their own husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and GAVE HIMSELF FOR HER, THAT He MIGHT SANCTIFY AND CLEANSE HER WITH THE WASHING OF WATER BY THE WORD, THAT HE might present her to Himself A GLORIOUS CHURCH, NOT HAVING SPOT OR WRINKLE, OR ANY SUCH THING, BUT THAT SHE SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLEMISH…This is a great mystery, but I speak CONCERNING CHRIST AND THE CHURCH…" (Ephesians 5:22-28).
In ancient Israel, the bride would bathe and dress and be escorted to the bridegroom by his friends. In the Church, BAPTISM is that bathing and dressing in which we put on Christ and the Groom Himself, Christ, ESCORTS US. In the Church, the baptized are one humanity, one flesh with Christ in marriage.
Virginity is a great virtue, although in our contemporary society and the world it is maligned and ignored. Virginity is purity and purity not just for women only, but men as well. Virginity implies also purity in thoughts (logismoi), passions, feelings, actions, and way of living. As you have heard from the Divine words of our Lord and Savior that none know when He will come again and therefore we must not become complacent and lethargic, for our salvation depends on it.
Our Savior warns us when He says that, " and at midnight there was a cry made, ‘BEHOLD, THE BRIDEGROOM COMETH…", to show us that His Coming will come when we least expect it, as at midnight when we all have fallen into a deep asleep. "He also comes with a cry, for a trumpet will sound at the Second Coming." According to Saint Theophylact, "The lamps ARE OUR SOULS, and each one’s AND EACH ONE’S MIND IS ALSO A LAMP; THE LAMP IS LIT WHEN ONE HAS THE OIL OF THE VIRTUES AND ALMSGIVING (CHARITY). The virgins were truly foolish in this regard also, that they went to look for oil when it was not the time for work and business. The wise virgins say, "lest there be not enough for us and you." My neighbor’s virtue scarcely suffices for his own defense, and certainly not for me as well, FOR EACH ONE WILL BE DEEMED RIGHTEOUS BY HIS OWN DEEDS AND NOT BY THOSE OF HIS NEIGHBOR."
In a loving and compassionate way, the Godman, our only True Redeemer, is urging us to take our salvation seriously and not to dismiss all that He reveals to us. We cannot wait at the last moment to be philanthropic, to be virtuous, to be clean and pure, to be ready for Judgment Day, at which time all that we have done or not done will be revealed in the presence of the righteous, Archangels, Angels, Saints, and Holy Apostles. Did you hear that once all the righteous enter into the wedding feast the doors will be closed? And even if you call out, "Lord, Lord, open to us…the Lord will answer will say, "Truly, I say unto you, I DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE and therefore you will NOT BE ADMITTED INTO THE WEDDING FEAST (THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN).
Saint Theophylact writes: "Understand this, that EVERY SOUL POSSESSES A LAMP AND A LIGHT FROM GOD, AND THAT ALL ARISE TO MEET THE LORD, FOR ALL DESIRE TO MEET AND HAVE COMMUNION WITH GOD. But after God has given light and a lamp, the wise, with their good deeds, ADD THE OIL. But the foolish, having let their lamps RUN OUT OF OIL, are shut out, having NO GOOD DEEDS ("WORKS OF MERCY"), we extinguish the Light of God that IS IN US."
Vigilance and watchfulness are of the utmost importance. Our God-given talents were given to us to invest while we are living and we are able to do good for our fellow men. There is no time to lose, we must act immediately not knowing when our end will come. The Almighty God has given us every opportunity to "work out our own salvation." Have you started yet? What are you waiting for?
No one should be distracted by worldly concerns, problems, ambitions, wealth, power, etc. Each one must reevaluate his or her priorities and make God and salvation first. Everyone knows for a fact that none of the things we hold of value in the world will follow us after we die. We are reminded always in the Orthodox funeral service, "All human things are vanity, which do not survive a person’s death: riches do not go with us, nor does glory accompany us on the way; for when death comes upon us, ALL OF THESE SHALL VANISH, INDEED…". Also, "Where is all the earthly activity? Where are the imaginings of the temporal? Where is the gold and silver? Where is all the tumult and the noise of the servants? All are dust, all are ashes, all just a screen!..". "I brought to mind Prophet (Ezekiel) who cried: I am earth and dust; and again I looked in the graves and beheld the naked bones, and said: To whom could these belong? King or soldier, rich or poor, righteous or sinner?" As you see, our Holy Church constantly reminds us of the brevity of this earthly life and how foolish we are to believe that all these earthly things or achievements or stations in life are important.
Our model is always our Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Holy Church. As Orthodox Christians, our loyalty is ONLY to Our Savior Christ God. We need no one else to imitate or emulate in our lives. We have seen over the many centuries that any human being, no matter what his station in life is, is flowed and imperfect. History has exposed the greed, the power struggles, the obsession with domination and control, and the obscene passions for world domination by dictators and tyrants. All of them had a painful, greesome end to their lives. Every one of them were discredited, dishonored, and ridiculed by the thousands or even million of victims they tortured, imprisoned, exiled and abused.
We all believe in God’s Divine Justice…and no one can escape it. Everyone who committed these heinous acts will be condemned for all eternity. It matters not if he was a royal, a president of a country, a chancellor, a pope or a hierarch, a priest, a deacon, a teacher, a general, a businessman, a tycoon, or a billionare. God’s power, truth and Justice IS ABSOLUTE! The "Pantokratora" always has the last word in everything. Believing this fact, we all need to examine ourselves and our actions and with a contrite and humble heart repent and seek His forgiveness and mercy.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George