When we are going to attend a wedding, it’s a pretty big deal. There are gifts to be bought, perhaps clothes to be bought, and preparations to be made for the big day. While we may not consciously do this, everyone actually prepares for a wedding working backwards from the wedding day. What does this mean? If the wedding is on a Saturday at 4:00 p.m., we know we have to leave home by 3:00 p.m., which means we start getting ready at 2:00 p.m. If we need a suit or dress dry-cleaned, we start that process at least a week in advance. If we need something altered, the process starts even earlier. We shop for the wedding present well in advance of the wedding day. Of course, we let people know that we are coming to the wedding. And the whole process that leads to the wedding day actually starts years earlier as we begin a friendship with someone whose wedding we will eventually attend.
We are all invited by the Lord to a marriage feast. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven will be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son and sent servants to call those who were invited. That’s us! The King is God! The feast is His Son, Jesus Christ. We are invited to partake of Him frequently through Holy Communion. We are invited to enter into the Kingdom of God, heaven, at the end of our lives. The invitation is ours for the taking.
Many people made excuses in the parable not to attend. Some treated the servants who came to call them to the wedding shamefully, even killing them. In the parable, this represents the prophets (the servants who told the people the banquet was about to begin), and those who killed the prophets. The people of Israel, God’s chosen people, rejected Him, at the very least, their leadership did. When the king told his servants to go to the thoroughfares and invite people in, this meant that the Gentiles (not the chosen people) were invited to be God’s people as well. The invitation is for everyone.
The meaning of this parable is that all are invited to participate in the marriage feast, salvation. Some will make excuses for not accepting. Some will be too busy, or too ignorant, or too egotistical or too preoccupied with other concerns and priorities. Some will treat God’s servants shamefully, even killing them. We’ve seen this throughout the ages in the witness of the martyrs, and on a much small scale, we still see it with those who thwart the message of the Gospel and the purpose of the church by trying to make it into a social club or a cultural tribe, and injuring others, especially the clergy, in the process.
Let’s address the man who went into the marriage feast but who was put out from the feast because he was lacking a wedding garment. This is certainly not a message about coming to church in dazzling apparel. I’ve met people who were ashamed to come to church because they didn’t have nice clothes. We are supposed to come to God’s house with our best clothes on. However, if a person’s best is blue jeans, well that’s just fine. The garment in this parable is the garment of our souls, which is faith and repentance. If a person comes to stand before the awesome judgment seat of Christ without BOTH faith and repentance, he will appear as the man in the marriage feast who was not properly dressed. And according to the parable, will be rejected by the king.
We are all invited to the marriage feast. Whether we are born into a Christian family, or if we find Christianity later in life, all are invited. Whether you have read the Bible cover to cover many times, or are just starting to study it, all are invited.
The issue for all becomes the wedding garment—faith and repentance—and if that garment will be judged appropriate for the wedding by the king, our Lord Jesus Christ, before who’s judgment seat we will each stand before we are admitted into the wedding feast. Again, the invitation is for everyone, many are called. But admittance is only for those who are chosen by God as worthy to enter.
Going back to the real-life example of being invited to the wedding. We’ve all been invited. Christ wants to have a relationship with each of us. Unlike the wedding, where only friends are invited, Christ invites everyone, whether we have a relationship or not. Also, unlike the wedding, which has a specific date and time, we do not know the day nor the hour that the Bridegroom will come for us, we do not know when the wedding will commence for each of us, as we discussed in the last reflection.
If we know we want to attend, and we do not know the day nor the hour, working backwards, that means we should prepare with expediency. And as we would for the wedding, we need to make sure we have the right attire, that it is clean, that we are ready for the marriage feast. The truth is that we haven’t all accepted the invitation. Perhaps we are not sure if we want to attend. Maybe we don’t have a relationship with the Lord. This makes it even more critical that we begin our journey to the marriage feast in earnest, first with a relationship, then accepting the invitation, and finally preparing accordingly.
The hymn for this reflection is also a popular and well-known hymn from Holy Week To Nymphona Sou, I see Your Bridal Chamber. Indeed, we do see the Bridal Chamber, we have glimpses of the wedding service in the Divine Liturgy and in the many other ways God reveals Himself to us. No matter who we are, and no matter how devout we are, none of us has a garment that is appropriate for the wedding. All of our souls have been stained. Thus, we pray to Christ to make the vesture of our souls radiant, as only He can, so that we can indeed enter into the marriage feast.
Lord, when You were instructing Your own Disciples to think perfect thoughts, You told them not to be like the Gentiles, exercising authority over the weakest. You said: “It shall not be so with you, My Disciples, for I am of my own will, poor. Therefore, he who would be first among you let him be the servant of all; the one who rules, as the one being ruled; and the one who is preferred as the least of all. For I have come to serve the impoverished Adam, and to give My life as a ransom for the many, who cry out to Me: ‘Glory to You.’” (Aposticha, Bridegroom Service, Palm Sunday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
We’ve all be invited to the wedding, as special guests of the King of Glory. Let us prepare the garments of our souls appropriately, so that when we are called to the banquet, we will be welcomed by our host. Because this wedding won’t just be a fun afternoon. It will last for eternity. And those who miss out on this won’t just be missing out on a fun party. They will be missing out on eternal glory!