Parables of wisdom

Monastery Name of the Parable:

- The ten Virgins
- The wise virgins
- The ten girls


- Parable of the Ten Virgins Matthew 21,1-13
- First exegesis of the parable
- Second exegesis of the parable

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The ten Virgins

From the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25, Verses 1-13

The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five wise; the foolish took the lamps, but took no oil with them; the wise ones instead, together with the lamps, also took oil in small vessels. As the bridegroom was late, they all dozed off and slept. At midnight a cry arose: "Here is the bridegroom, go to him!" Then all those virgins woke up and prepared their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, because our lamps go out. But the wise ones answered: No, that he did not fail for us and for you; go rather to the sellers and buy them. Now, while they were going to buy oil, the bridegroom arrived and the virgins that were ready entered with him at the wedding, and the door was closed. Later the other virgins also arrived and began to say: Lord, sir, open to us! But he replied: Verily I say unto you, I not know you. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

First exegesis of the parable

This parable is part of Jesus' great eschatological discourse, a discourse, composed of familiar stories and images to communicate transcendental truth in an understandable way. It was a pedagogical and prophetic tool to reveal the mystery of the kingdom of God. To unite the two realities Jesus used the simile: Then the Kingdom of heaven is similar. . .

Here an event of great importance is narrated, the ceremony of a wedding. After the engagement which lasted about a year, this special ceremony was celebrated, in which the bride together with the groom had to be accompanied by ten virgins with lit lamps towards the wedding.

The lit lamps represented both the divine presence that accompanied the spouses on their marital journey, and the divine approval of their union, and also the commitment and preparation of the virgins ready to welcome the groom and illuminate the path towards the future of their marriage.

The number ten of the virgins represented, according to some interpretations, the entire community of the bride.

In this Parable there are two types of bridesmaids, the wise ones and the foolish ones. Some have enough oil while others do not have it, the latter have to go looking for it and it takes them too long to find it, when they arrive it is late, they are excluded from the party and cannot participate in the joy of the ceremony.

The determining element that discriminates virgins is oil, the fuel necessary to keep the torches lit. And the oil mentioned many times in the Bible can be related to work in various ways. This oil that keeps the lamps burning represents, therefore, the effort of man and woman. Even from a human point of view, obtaining oil requires effort and commitment, in fact, it is necessary to collect the olives, transport them to the mills, press them and extract the oil. To this we must add constant and careful work to be dedicated to the olive tree which involves: pruning, fertilization, irrigation and phytosanitary defence.

In the parable the wise virgins knew how to live the time of waiting, they prepared and organized themselves well. They worked hard to prepare the moment of the meeting and celebration.

For the Christian, the groom who comes is the encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord, this joy can already be experienced in the long and indefinite wait. In this interval you can also fall asleep after having done everything you had to do. Conversely, when you sleep overwhelmed by laziness you are foolish, and a fool is someone who the Bible defines as lacking wisdom, intelligence, foolish, senseless and irresponsible.

To enhance the moment we are living in and prepare to meet the Lord, we need to keep the fire of the lamp lit and stock up on oil, and this oil is obtained by putting the Word of Jesus into action and living our lives according to the model that we are living in. Our Lord taught in the Gospel.

Reading the text of the parable the question may arise: why don't the wise virgins share the oil with the foolish ones? If it is true that you can share bread, clothes and much more, you cannot share life choices, virtuous actions, evangelical works which are the fruit of personal responsibility.

The parable teaches us how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven:
  1. If the virgins chosen by the bride/groom represent Christians, we Christians must keep ourselves pure.

  2. If oil represents work, this must take place in the Lord's vineyard, an invitation that Jesus often proposes in the Gospel.

  3. If the foolish virgins do not have the oil, we must avoid laziness, reject or select what Jesus proposes, but proceed by working diligently.

  4. If the light of the lit lamp represents the light of God, this manifests itself in the world if fueled by our works.

Second exegesis of the parable

The meaning of this parable is relative to the expectation of the coming of the Lord, when the Son of man will appear above the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. This return of the Lord has already happened for that generation that listened to this word, it happened with the resurrection. For us this resurrection as it is proclaimed, that is the return of the Lord, is the daily proclamation of the Gospel, because His Word is exactly the instrument with which it makes itself present now.

This parable speaks of ten virgins, of whom five are wise and five are foolish, and all of them are waiting for the bridegroom; we must reflect on the image that is proposed to us here: Jesus draws it from the prophets, in Isaiah and above all in Hosea who use this spousal vision, well known to the disciples and the people who then listened to him. The prophets, when they refer to spousal terms, mean the people of God, the people of Israel, the holy people, or the bride of God.

In the biblical book of Hosea there is a passage, in which the Lord reproaches Israel as the bride who betrayed her husband to run after the lovers (see Os 2,4-15). The denunciation of the state of prostitution of the people of Israel is the spousal argument that characterizes the whole of the old testament and it is the state that has reprehensibly reached the relationship of the people of God with God himself.

Jesus takes up this symbolism, referring to ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom: the virgins are a symbol of purity and fidelity, that is, of how the people of God should be. However, the parable states that this people is made up of wise people and by foolish people, yet all of them are there waiting for the bridegroom. By mentioning the presence of the foolish virgins, Jesus alludes to high priests, scribes and Pharisees, or to that part of Israel that gave credit to its own doctrine, to a completely human law: they will be precisely those who will not recognize the Son of man.

The wise virgins, on the other hand, are those who seek God, believe and, seeing that the "bridegroom" (their God incarnate in Jesus) come to meet them, will recognize him and believe in him. These two realities, the wise and foolish virgins, in appearance they do not stand out, as both are with the lamp on; in fact, returning to the analogy mentioned, even Pharisees and scribes in their own way seek God, but are unable to follow His will and to recognize Him in Jesus.

The parable leads us to the cry: "Here is the bridegroom!" That cry highlights a very important detail: at that precise moment the foolish virgins realize they no longer have any oil. The cry corresponds to the announcement, the announcement of the resurrection, and following the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus which makes His presence manifest in that time and in the centuries to follow. What effect does this cry generate? What happen? Now the two groups stand out clearly: on the one hand there are those who have oil, on the other those who do not have oil. Yet all ten virgins were waiting for his coming, with oil supplies, so much so that initially, in their expectation, they all had the lamp on.

What then distinguishes the wise from the foolish? The fact that the first ones are also provided with reserve oil and, when the groom comes and invites them to follow him, the wise virgins can do it, the foolish ones do not. Even that reserve oil is a symbol: it represents who recognized in Jesus the manifestation of God and, recognizing him, can enter the wedding room that is in communion with God. The foolish instead, taken back by the arrival of the groom, they go to look for the oil, but when they come back they are told: "I don't know you". They represent those who seek God with presumption, and do not recognize Him in Jesus: this is why the door is closed for them, they will not participate in the marriage, they will not enjoy the presence of the bridegroom, they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus himself had said it: "I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be saved" (Jn 10: 9); who does not recognize him and does not take Him as a guide, cannot therefore enter the house of the Father. This is what happens when the resurrection is announced, but also every time the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed: when Paul testifies that he was sent to preach it among the Gentiles, he does not worry that they do not have a tradition as a people of God, but accepts without hesitation in the certainty that the power of the Word can hold on to all the hearts that sincerely seek God.

It applies to everyone, without exception and at any time! Now it is up to you to accept this Word, moved by the desire to meet God. If you seek Him with a sincere heart in Jesus, do not be afraid: when you hear its voice, you will recognize it and in the end you will be invited to enter to participate in the wedding that will allow you to be eternally in communion with God.