Wise or Foolish, Which are You?

Wise or Foolish, Which are You?

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Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For 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, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those maidens rose 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 replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  Matthew 25:1-13  (Gospel from the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Holy Tuesday Morning)

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

Most of us are familiar with the Parable of the Ten Maidens.  This is another parable that is very rich in meaning, which has an application to life even today.

The Bridegroom is Christ.  The marriage feast is the inheriting of everlasting life.  The ten maidens are us. The lamps are our souls.   The hour of the feast is unknown.

When the call came to “meet the bridegroom”, the wise maidens had enough oil in their lamps to keep them lit.  The foolish did not.  They wrongly assumed that either they had enough oil, that the other maidens would share their oil, or that there would be enough warning that there would be enough time to go out and buy oil.

When I was a child, I always thought that the wise maidens were mean because they wouldn’t share their oil.  After all, are we not supposed to share with those have little?  Why were those “mean” maidens rewarded and the poor ones punished?

As I have gotten older, and have come to a deeper understanding of the Bible, I now know that the oil represents the faith.  And while I can “share” my faith with you and you can “share” your faith with me, in the sense of telling one another about our faith, one cannot “cut his faith in half” and give half of his faith to someone else, the way someone can cut a sandwich in half and share it.  Faith is something that is personal to each individual.  And either one has faith, or he doesn’t.  Faith is something that we can learn about from others.  It is certainly something we should share with others.  But faith is a personal thing that is “possessed” by each individual.

Merely “being around” Godly people doesn’t make one a Godly person, no more than hanging out in a garage makes one a car.  Just “talking” about the faith doesn’t do it either.  There have been many occasions in my ministry where someone has died and when the family comes to make the funeral arrangements, they will say something like “uncle Joe was really a spiritual person, I know he didn’t come to church often, but he was always here for Easter.”   I wonder if they think they sound silly justifying something like that to me.  I wonder what uncle Joe will feel like when he says that to the Lord.

Faith is also not just knowledge.  It is action.  James 2:17 reads “so, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  And works do not save us without faith.  Faith and works go together in concert with God’s grace in order for one to attain salvation.  Allow me to share an analogy of faith, works and grace, compared to a cup, rocks and water.  The cup represents faith, the structure of what we believe.  However, the empty cup is of little use, just like the faith that has no works is an empty faith.  The rocks represents the works.  But works done without faith are like rocks without a place to collect them.  They scatter randomly and are ends to themselves.

Fill a cup with rocks and the cup still has empty spaces.  That is because the water represents God’s grace, which heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking in us.  It fills the empty spiritual spaces.  We receive grace through prayer and the sacraments, a little bit at a time.  The idea is for our cup to be strong and large—to have a strong faith.  And for it to be filled with rocks, our good works.  Then filling the cup with water makes the cup truly full.  And this is the ideal Christian life—faith, works and grace.

Going back to the Parable of the Maidens, the wise maidens not only had faith, but they had joyful expectation of the arrival of the Bridegroom.  They slumbered and slept, confident that when the cry came to meet the Bridegroom, they would have sufficient oil in their lamps.  No one knows the day or the hour when the Bridegroom will come for each of us.  That is why the “smart” Christian is vigilant about his or her lamp, to keep it filled with faith, works and grace.

The desire of Christ is for all to enter into the feast.  However, only those who prepare will be admitted.  Just like in the Parable, some of the maidens are wise and some are foolish.  Which are you?

I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment, that I may enter therein; O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul, and save me. (Exapostelarion, from the Service of the Bridegroom, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)

Fill your cup today!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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About author
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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0