“These five and five virgins are all Christian souls together. But that I may tell you what by the Lord’s inspiration I think, it is not souls of every sort, but such souls as having the Catholic faith, and seem to have good works in the Church of God; and yet even of them, “five are wise, and five are foolish.” St. Augustine
I feel bad for the five sleepy virgins. How much different are they from the sleepy apostles in the garden of Gethsemane? Answer? One is a true historical event and the other is a metaphor.
In the Old Testament, we waited for the coming of the Messiah. In the New Testament, we watch for the return landing of our Lord. The Psalms and the prophets urge us to wait while the Gospel commands us to watch. Biblical watching is a learned activity filled with grace that is about as rare as white peacocks or bismuth crystals.
Isaiah writes, “no one watches (calls upon God’s name)” because sin has dulled our spiritual senses. Theologians call this numbness, sloth. Aquinas wrote of sloth: “(It is )sadness in the face of spiritual good. Man is made for joy in the love of God, a love which he expresses in service. If he deliberately turns away from that joy, he denies the purpose of his existence.” A hectic, overbooked schedule is the chief symptom of sloth. Another symptom of sloth is the absence of play.
The best way to enter His rest (cf. Hebrews 2-4) is to “work with your hands” (cf. I Thessalonians 4:9-11) and to do things that are not productive.
When you work hard and play hard, there is a good chance, in the words of Isaiah, “The Lord our Father returns and visits us.” Solomon thought so. He suggested we, “Eat, drink and be merry” as we “fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes).
When the 10 virgins became followers of God (ten symbolizing infinity and virgin referring to the washing away of our sin at baptism), they had their whole life ahead of them ( as Robert Frost said, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.”
Fr. Randy Sly (my former archbishop in the CEC) writes:
It is not coincidental that one of the symbols used in baptism is a candle. When the candle is lit, the priest or deacon says, Parents and Godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
With the light of faith present at our baptism, the main work is just now beginning – to keep the light burning brightly. This is where the virgins are really revealed as wise or foolish. Both groups have the light but only one will be able to keep the light.
The job of the Holy Spirit is to wake us up, every day. Jesus told His twelve, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'” (Matthew 26:41). Watching equals vigilance. While sleep is a gift, it’s better to go without sleep. The parable of the virgins speaks to the sleeping habits of the spiritual. The goal of the Christian is to learn how to “watch and pray” and sleep less.
Isaiah prayed,” Lord, make us turn to you and learn how to watch.”