Rabbi: …The same Lord had said: “It is not good for man to be alone.” So He gave him a woman for companion. Raphael, take Lullina as your wife in accordance with the Law and the written commandment in the Book of Moses. Receive her and bring her as a family member to the house of your father. May the Almighty God always guide you and bring you peace!
That night, the fishermen’s village of Capernaum was having a feast. Raphael, one of the twins of the big house, was getting married to Lullina, the daughter of an old boatman. The sounds of drums and zithers echoed through the village, inviting everyone to the dance in honor of the bride and groom….
Women: “The bride is like a lily / the groom, a carnation / who blushes like the flower / when his bride looks at him.”
The women danced around Lullina and the men formed a circle around Raphael. After a while, we were served the food prepared by the groom’s father… We sat on the floor, beside the trays of pastries and jugs of wine. The music played continuously…. Our faces, drenched with sweat, dazzled with great joy….
James: It’s good to die at a wedding, fellas! If I have to go, then let it be when I’m dancing and feasting!
John: And drinking! Here’s a toast to Raphael and Lullina, the newly weds!
Peter: And I drink a toast to those who have stuck to their wives for forty years!
A Man: And to those who are due to tie the knot but haven’t made up their minds!
Peter: Hey, Jesus, that last toast is intended for you! Dammit, Moreno, how many weddings have you been to…. hasn’t the fever gotten you yet, huh?
Jesus: As you can see, Peter, I haven’t swallowed any bait myself yet..
John: I bet this wedding is a lot better than that of my friend Reuben…
James: Certainly! Wasn’t it there where your tunic got burned, John?
John: Right. There was some delay among the participants to the wedding, and later, the hassle with the oil lamps. Remember that, Jesus?
Jesus: Of course, I do. I was with the groom and his friends in his house. Then we left together for a trellis nearby, and there we waited for the coming of the bride…
A Friend: Are you nervous, young man? This is the greatest night in your life!
Reuben: No, I’m not…. Brrr… I just….. I just feel cold and…
Another Friend: Gee, you don’t talk of anything here, but love, man! And love is at its best with a shot of wine! Here’s to your health, rascal!
Friend: Long live the groom!
Friend: Long live the bride!
Jesus: Right from where we were gathered, we saw a group of young ladies pass by, illuminating the dark night with their oil lamps…
Ladies: …You stole my heart, my beloved husband, you stole my heart, with your look and your words of love…
Jesus: The young ladies accompanied the bride to the groom’s house. Then they went out and stayed by the door, awaiting our coming….
Reuben: When all the stars shine in the sky, then it’s time for us to go!
A Friend: Oh, we’ve got enough time! There’s just a lone star up there.
Another Friend: There’s no hurry, fellas. Let the ladies wait! We gotta finish this barrel yet!
Jesus: At the door of the house were ten friends of the bride, who were waiting with their lighted lamps….
Young Lady: You’re gonna get your dress soiled if you sit on the floor, Annie. Don’t forget you just borrowed it…
Annie: Don’t tell me we’re gonna be standing here all night…. I’m tired because of dancing, and my feet are hurting….
Another Young Lady: I’m sleepy. That’s all…. Hmmm… I guess we’ve had too much wine…
Young Lady: Hey, how foolish you are! Look what we’ve got here, one sleepyhead, and a sloppy one… Lousy, huh? Listen, why don’t we sing, to keep us all awake! C’mon!
Annie: Yeah, let’s sing some ballads… Hey, this lamp is running out of oil…. I didn’t bring extra oil…
Young Lady: Neither did I, but I think this will get us through…
Young Lady: Stop arguing and let’s go on with the songs!
Jesus: The bridesmaids began to sing to while away the time. We could hear their singing and their happy voices from where we were….
Young Lady: Here comes my love, through the field he comes / through the field he comes, I can hear his voice…
Jesus: And when the sky became studded with stars, the young ladies’ songs became softer… the girls grew tired of waiting…. From afar, we saw that some of the lamps had stopped burning….
Young Lady: Hey, Annie, look at these girls, they have fallen asleep and their light is extinguished…
Another young lady: I heard they had run out of oil..
Young Lady: Well, that’s their own look out… sleep tight, ladies!
Annie: Hmmm…! Oh, Miriam, I’m sleepy too…. my eyes are getting heavy….! Hmmm…..!
Reuben: Well, fellas, the barrel is empty and I guess this is the end of it. I gotta say bye-bye to my bachelorhood!
A Friend: Your time has come, Reuben! Be ready, for tonight you’re the king of the party!
Another Friend: Hic! Let’s drink the final toast to this man who will join his better half, at last!
Jesus: Then, when it was midnight, we headed for the house where the grand celebration was to take place: the meeting of the bride and groom… The bridesmaids were still sleeping by the door, one lumped over the other…
Friend: Hey, the groom is coming!… Ain’t you gonna welcome him?
Young Lady: Oh, oh, the groom is here!… Wake up, Annie…. You too, Miriam!
Annie: Oh, the light from my lamp is gone!
Young Lady: And so’s mine!
Another Young Lady: And mine too! What are we gonna do? Oh my God!
Young Lady: Try to fix them! I haven’t got even a drop of oil!
Another Lady: This is what you get for being careless! Go and buy some oil at the store, and see if they will give you a little! Hurry!
Young Lady: And don’t be late for the party!
Young Lady: Run, Annie, run…. Oh God!
Jesus: So the five bridesmaids who did not bring enough oil hurriedly left to buy in the square. While they were away, we arrived at the house, singing and clapping with the groom…
Young Ladies: Open the door, my dear, for the groom wishes to enter!
Young Men: Open the door, my love, for your master is here!
Young Ladies: Open the door, lady, most beautiful one!
Young Men: Open the door, beloved, for outside, it is terribly cold!
Jesus: The other five ladies with their lighted lamps, opened the door for us and led us inside the house, where the bride was anxiously waiting. She was dressed in blue, with a crown of orange blossoms around her forehead…
A Man: Let’s begin the great celebration!
Jesus: Then the door was closed. The dance began. There was much food, and every guest was happy… A few minutes later, the careless bridesmaids came back from the store, running…
Annie: Please open the door!… We’re back!
Young Lady: Open the door, please… and let us in!
Servant: Who’s banging the door, huh?
Young Lady: Our other companions. They forgot to bring enough oil, so they came late!
Annie: Please open the door and let us in!
Servant: Stop disturbing us, dammit! Get away from here! It’s your fault. You were not vigilant. Who told you to sleep and be late?
Peter: Then what happened, Jesus? After having waited long enough, were they left outside the house?
Jesus: Well, Peter, the truth is these girls were not alert.
James: Serves them right, for being foolish and non-vigilant.
Peter: Okay, okay. The girls failed to do their part. But… the groom… what did he do, Jesus? Didn’t he open the door for them?
Jesus: The groom did what every groom is expected to do, Peter. When he learned what was happening outside…
Raphael: Hey guys, are you having fun, tonight?! Did you like the pastries? What about the wine?
John: Everything is wonderful, Raphael. Here’s a toast to you and to Lullina!
Raphael: And to all of you, my friends! A toast to all of you!
Raphael, the groom, went to where we were… He was radiant with joy…
Raphael: And who’s up next, huh? Is anyone preparing to get married soon?
Jesus: No, not yet. It’s a lot easier to tell stories about weddings! Say, Raphael, what would you do if tonight, five of your wife’s bridesmaids came late for the party because they had run out of oil. When they came back from buying oil, they found the door of the house locked. Would you let them in or not?
Raphael: But of course, Jesus! How could I leave them out in the cold? My house is always open, it never closes at night. Today is the happiest day of my life, and I wouldn’t want anyone to be left out in the cold of night. Well, guys, enjoy yourselves!
James: See you later, Raphael!
Jesus: You see, Peter? This was what the other groom did. All grooms do the same…
Annie: Please, let us in, please!
Servant: Don’t bother us, dammit! Get away from here! It’s all your fault. Who told you to sleep and be late?
Reuben: But, what’s going on here, Theodore? Whom are you quarreling with, with ghosts?
Servant: No, master. With five negligent young ladies who didn’t come on time. Too bad for them. Let them wait outside. This is what is commanded of us: to close the door.
Reuben: Well, go ahead and open it, c’mon.
Servant: What was that again, Master?
Reuben: Open wide the doors! Let the five young ladies in. They must be very tired! They’ve waited for a long time! C’mon, hurry, open the door and let anyone in who wants to enter! Today is a joyful day and I want everybody to join me in the celebration! This is a wedding, yes sir, and the party is for all!
Jesus: That’s right. All grooms do the same thing. The joy of a wedding fills the heart…. I believe God will also do the same at the end, at midnight, when we all get back to our homes with but little oil left in our lamps…
The sounds of drums and zithars echoed until dawn. Until then, we continued dancing and celebrating the great joy of that wedding feast, with doors open wide….
Weddings were celebrated with great joy in Israel. They usually lasted seven days and were spent eating, singing and dancing. Although the customs differed in several details from region to region, there was always a culminating moment: the meeting of the bride and groom. In the afternoon of the first day of the feast, they brought the bride to the house of the groom’s father, where the banquet usually took place and a room was specially prepared for the new couple. The groom would go out to meet his wife with special headgear sewn by his mother: the “crown.” His friends accompanied him. As a practice, a group of young men singing songs and carrying torches would leave the groom during the encounter, to get together later in the house where the feast was celebrated. The bride, who was beautifully adorned, appeared before her future husband, covered with veils. During the celebration, it was the practice among men and women to dance and eat separately.
The so-called “parable of the ten virgins” is narrated only in the gospel of Matthew. Here, the evangelist wants to make a catechesis to the community on the subject of vigilance. Those were difficult times, and when the hour of God’s final judgment comes, no one should feel so secure. One must be ready with oil for replacement, one must be prepared; no one should rest on their laurels. On the contrary, one should be ever watchful. This is what Matthew wanted to tell us in this parable that dramatically ends with a closed door to indicate the seriousness of the topic he was talking about.
In this episode, without contradicting the catechetical meaning of the parable, the open door remains at the end. Of the many symbolic elements interplaying in this story, rather than highlighting those of the oil, or those of the night of vigilance, emphasis is placed on the others: the groom, the wedding. From the point of view of catechesis vis-à-vis Christians, one must insist on the first. From the missionary point of view, though, in order to show how God is, how mysterious his ways always are with people, then it is valid to focus on the rest. People must be watchful and must take this to heart, but God, in his love and mercy, will always surpass the heart (1 Jn 3:2).
Certainly, this parable speaks of the end of time, the judgment day and the reckoning. It is an eschatological parable. A unilateral kind of preaching has, for a long time, terrorized the people with regard to the end of the world. The fear of hell, fire and punishment, have been a perennial topic of preachers in order to make people mend their ways, “to convert them.” To this day, it is a burden borne on the shoulders of Christians. Consequently, those bleak ideas have given us a lousy image of God: a policeman who takes account of our good and bad deeds, and much to our dismay, and to his joy, brings us death at the most inopportune time, hurling us into the cauldron of boiling oil. Christian vigilance is thus reduced to fear and the need to store up merits in preparation for the day (dying with the scapular on, having complied with the nine first Friday devotions, having earned indulgences, may save us at the last hour from the whims of a vengeful God). In the light of all these, we have to open ourselves to the reality of the God of Jesus: a cheerful God, who is preparing a wedding banquet to receive us in the other life, who understands our foibles, wishing only our happiness, with a heart “always greater than ours.”