2

Virgins and the Thief in the Night

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Matthew 25: 1-13

I have always liked the ending of the Church year, as we focus in the readings on the Four Last Things:  Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  In the above reading our Lord, in His usual manner of a parable, sketches out for us His Second Coming and the Final Judgment on the Last Day.  Saint Augustine interprets this for us:

 

They wished to go to meet the Bridegroom. What is the meaning of to go and meet the Bridegroom? To go with the heart, to be waiting for his coming. But he tarried. While he tarries, they all slept. What is all? Both the foolish and the wise, all slumbered and slept. Think we is this sleep good? What is this sleep? Is it that at the tarrying of the Bridegroom, because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold? Are we to understand this sleep so? I like it not. I will tell you why. Because among them are the wise virgins; and certainly when the Lord said, Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; He went on to say, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Where would you have those wise virgins be? Are they not among those that shall endure unto the end? They would not be admitted within at all, Brethren, for any other reason, than because they have endured unto the end. No coldness of love then crept over them, in them love did not wax cold; but preserves its glow even unto the end. And because it glows even unto the end, therefore are the gates of the Bridegroom opened to them; therefore are they told to enter in, as that excellent servant, Enter into the joy of your Lord. What then is the meaning of they all slept? There is another sleep which no one escapes. Remember ye not the Apostle saying, But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that is, concerning them which are dead? For why are they called they which are asleep, but because they are in their own day? Therefore they all slept. Do you think that because one is wise, he has not therefore to die? Be the virgin foolish, or be she wise, all suffer equally the sleep of death.

7. But men continually say to themselves, Lo, the day of judgment is coming now, so many evils are happening, so many tribulations thicken; behold all things which the Prophets have spoken, are nearly fulfilled; the day of judgment is already at hand. They who speak thus, and speak in faith, go out as it were with such thoughts to meet the Bridegroom. But, lo! war upon war, tribulation upon tribulation, earthquake upon earthquake, famine upon famine, nation against nation, and still the Bridegroom comes not yet. Whilst then He is expected to come, all they who are saying, Lo, He is coming, and the Day of Judgment will find us here, fall asleep. Whilst they are saying this, they fall asleep. Let each one then have an eye to this his sleep, and persevere even unto his sleep in love; let sleep find him so waiting. For suppose that he has fallen asleep. Will not He who falls asleep afterwards rise again? Therefore they all slept; both of the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable, it is said, they all slept.

8. Lo, at midnight there was a cry made. What is, at midnight? When there is no expectation, no belief at all of it. Night is put for ignorance. A man makes as it were a calculation with himself: Lo, so many years have passed since Adam, and the six thousand years are being completed, and then immediately according to the computation of certain expositors, the Day of Judgment will come; yet these calculations come and pass away, and still the coming of the Bridegroom is delayed, and the virgins who had gone to meet him sleep. And, lo, when He is not looked for, when men are saying, The six thousand years were waited for, and, lo, they are gone by, how then shall we know when He will come? He will come at midnight. What is, will come at midnight? Will come when you are not aware. Why will He come when you are not aware of it? Hear the Lord Himself, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Lord has put in His own power. The day of the Lord, says the Apostle, will come as a thief in the night. Therefore watch by night that you be not surprised by the thief. For the sleep of death— will you, or nill ye— it will come.

Our time for preparing for the Second Coming of Christ is during this life.  Rather than speculating as whether we live during the Last Days, let us focus on the certainty that the Last Day will come upon us either before or after we taste death.  The exact time is the Lord’s and not ours.  Ours is the duty for us to prepare our souls for this inevitable event, whether it comes in the next second or a billion years from now.

 

 

22

The Rapture Trap

Well it’s Monday and it looks like we’re all still here.  The predicted Rapture event failed to occur, and now Harold Camping is scrambling to come up with an excuse.  While it’s tempting to revel in this man’s exposure as a con artist, we should temper our enthusiasm just a little bit.

For one thing, though we all knew that the rapture would not be occurring because, well, there won‘t be a rapture (also see Carl Olson’s excellent book on the topic), there will be a final day of judgment.  It could very well have happened on Saturday, and it may happen next week.  Or next year.  Or a billion years from now.  We simply don’t know when the final hour will be at hand, and if nothing else maybe this story can remind us to live our lives in anticipation for Christ’s second coming.

Moreover, though Camping deserves much of the scorn heaped upon him, we should remember that there are people who were taken in by this fraudster and who gave up everything because they truly believed that the end was nigh.  Writing at The New Republic, Tiffany Stanley explains why we should not be overly gleeful about this past weekend’s non event. Continue Reading