Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 7, 2021

A Parable for Dark Times: the Ten Maidens with Lamps of Oil

In the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins, Jesus teaches something very important for these times – for our times, difficult as they are – and for the times to come, soon.

To summarize the teaching (Mt 25:1-13), Jesus spoke of five wise and five foolish virgins who went to meet the Bridegroom in the night, in the procession to take His Bride to their new home.  This is one among many parables of Jesus having relevance for all times, but especially as the end times come closer and closer.  In the darkness of those times coming, light – spiritual light – is crucially and urgently needed.

Mt 25:1  “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
Mt 25:2  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
Mt 25:3  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;
Mt 25:4  but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
Mt 25:5  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
Mt 25:6  But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Mt 25:7  Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps.
Mt 25:8  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
Mt 25:9  But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’
Mt 25:10  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.
Mt 25:11  Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
Mt 25:12  But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Mt 25:13  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Obviously in the parable, we are to conclude that the oil is the point: we need to have sufficient oil – we cannot overlook the oil; it is absolutely necessary.  To run out of this oil, in the darkness and trial of the end times, will mean that the door to the holy wedding feast of heaven will be closed in our faces!  To have no oil, when we stand before Christ on Judgment Day, will move Him to say to us, “Amen I say to you, I do not know you.”

What therefore is this oil, and where do we get it?  Where do we get as much of it as we will need?  How do we guard it, and protect it, lest we lose it on the way?

Among other uses, such as for ointment, for skin beauty, for incense and other uses, oil is for anointing and for light in lamps.  Because of its importance in the anointing of priests, of kings and prophets, and because of its use in lamps for light, the symbol of both Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit come forth for us in this parable.  That is to say, when we stand before Christ the Judge on Judgment Day, He will look into our souls to see what?  He will look to see Himself as light in our souls – He will look to see the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit upon us and within us.  He will look to see His Life in us!  Thus He will “know us” if we are His own, of His own very Life – or He will not “know us,” if we are empty of His Life, if there is in truth, no Life in us.

The Interior Life.

The crucially important Life spoken of here is given to us by God Himself sacramentally in Baptism, in the infusing of all the holy gifts of Baptism: sanctifying grace, the supernatural virtues of faith, and hope, and holy charity, the supernatural moral virtues, the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit, and all the virtues and gifts that flow from these, comprising the truly faithful Christian life.  This life is also called the Interior Life, and the Life of Prayer, understanding that prayer is in truth, holy communion with God.  St. John Vianney wrote, “Prayer is nothing other than union with God.”  The Interior Life is, in essence the life of divine love within us, moving us and vivifying us to live His Life here and now in this world, as we walk ever closer to our final embrace of union with Him and with all who are in Him, in eternity.

So the question of the oil – what it is, and how do we keep it safe as we walk toward that Day – is the question of the Interior Life, the life of grace, the life of prayer, the life of Christ in us.  And this oil is not a dead or static “thing”, it is a spiritual living reality that must be lived in our human living – it must be a Life that gives life to all that we are and do.  The spiritual, interior life is not something that can be locked up to be kept safe – it must be lived out and growing, ever growing and maturing – ever giving forth His Light! – or it will stagnate and wither and die within us.  It is given to us like a baby – beautiful and lovable – but like a baby it cannot remain a baby: it is given, it is destined, to grow, to mature, to become “the measure of the stature of Christ” within us.

Eph 4:11  And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Eph 4:13  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…

Go Rather to the Dealers and Buy for Yourselves. (Mt 25:9)

Thus the wise virgins said to those too foolish to see that each person needed to gather this spiritual life into themselves – that they too needed to have “oil” to give light in their own lives, that they could not simply borrow spiritual life from another.  No, each person must gather this oil for themselves, in their own due diligence, in their own prudent use of time in their own lives: to grow in Christ.  Each person must stand before Him and give account for themselves: how did we, each of us, use the time given us, to live the essential purpose for our lives:  “Why did God make you?”  “God made me to know, to love, and to serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

Growing in the Interior Life

How do we actually grow in the life of Christ?  The four pillars of the Catholic Faith give the answer.  We need to know, and to grow in, the Truth of the Faith – her doctrines, her teachings, the holy truths given us by God through His Church.  We need to live the Truth of the Faith: we need to live righteous, moral, holy lives faithful to our Lord.  We need to grow in grace, through the sacraments received with right disposition, and lived faithfully.  And we need to grow in prayer-communion with God.  Many Catholic adults have grown many years in the ways of the world, but precious little in the ways of God – and yet the ways of God are the ways that will endure for eternity!

The Catholic Church has been entrusted with precious, costly, priceless gifts of spiritual truth.  Many go forward to receive communion; few are present before God at home with their well-worn Bibles, holding tightly to His every word, His every truth, His every whisper of the ways to Him that please Him.  Many receive Him for a moment in Eucharist, but have no time to seek Him in timeless intimacy of silence and solitude, in hunger and emptiness, in cries to heaven in the darkness of prayer.  Many even of many years, remain far from “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

  • Let us all look hard and straight at the signs of the times! (~Mt 16:3) 
  • The day is far spent, the night draws near.  (~Lk 24:29)
  • Let us in urgency make the most of the time, for the days are evil. (~Eph 5:16) 
  • Let us work the works of the one who sent us.  Night comes, when no man can work. (~Jn 9:4)

Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Yes, how very important, for all to hear Jesus’ parable in these “Dark Times”. How we need to listen as Mary our Mother listened to everything Jesus said and did and ponder all in our hearts.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement: to keep our Lamps ready to greet Him when He comes! By God’s Grace, may we remember — we need oil to keep our Lamps burning — to keep growing in the Interior Life which we were given in potency at Baptism. We need to listen and do the Truth we hear.

    Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts, of Your Faithful. Kindle in us the Fire of Your Love. Jesus we trust in You! Our Lady of Light, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.

  2. Thank you Thomas for the encouraging words. I do not want to hear Jesus say He doesn’t know me on the last day. The days are very dark and there is so much to do.


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