On holy and Great Tuesday we commemorate the Parable of the Ten Virgins, which is taken from the holy Gospel of Matthew. (The Matins of Holy Tuesday are sung on Holy Monday evening, by anticipation.)
Couplet: Greatest of Tuesdays do the ten virgins bring, with five fetching a victory for the impartial Master.
This parable, with others, was spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, to His disciples, as He was ascending to Jerusalem and going to His Passion. He also spoke it to the Jews, warning them to prepare themselves before the end came. He was exhorting them to take the example of the five virgins who practised almsgiving along with virginity. Undeniably, preservation of virginity is a truly great achievement, which is made more radiant with exercise of the other virtues especially almsgiving. One cannot preserve this virtue of virginity to the exclusion of the other virtues. This most particularly is the case with love, by which the lamp of virginity is illumined. Saint Paul adds that “love never falleth away [1 Cor. 13:8].” So even if one should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but not have love, such a one has become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if one should have prophecy, and know all the mysteries and all the knowledge, and if one should have all the faith, so as to remove mountains from one place to another, but lack love, such a one is nothing. Indeed, should such a one dole out all of my goods, and should deliver up one’s body that it may be burned, but have not love, such a one is profited nothing. The Lord, therefore, introduced this parable because even though virginity was held in such high regard, as being one difficult to practise, yet not to how love, which is easier, make such ones no better than harlots. In the case of the harlot, they were overcome by bodily pleasure. In the case of virgins, they were enslaved to possessions. Therefore, we need vigilance and preparation as we await the Bridegroom Christ. Let us be watchful and perform good works before death overtakes us and we can no longer perform works of charity and love.
Behold, O my soul, the Master hath entrusted to Thee a talent! Receive the gift with fear. Lend to the One Who gave. Distribute to the needy, and acquire for thyself thy Lord as thy Friend. Do this in order that whenever He should come in glory, thou mightest stand on His right hand and hear His happy voice, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Yesterday, we saw the all-comely Joseph practise chastity, but he also did great works of charity. For during the seven lean years, he did not neglect the widows, orphans, and prisoners. He showed love and did not seek vengeance upon his brothers. Neither he nor the five virgins were like the fruitless fig tree. Do you see the power of giving alms? Let us be mindful of the words of Solomon: “He who hath pity on the poor lends to the Lord; and he will recompense to him according to his gift [Prov. 19:17].” Let us also remember the words of the brother of the Lord: “For the judgement shall be merciless to him who rendered no mercy. Mercy boasteth against judgment [Jas. 2:13].” Know that almsgiving is greater than virginity, so says the Lord. When He comes to judge the world, He is not going to seek virginity but charity, alms, and mercy. Therefore, let us not neglect to show love so we may enter into eternal life with Christ and not turn away in shame.
But, O Bridegroom Christ, do Thou number us with the prudent virgins and place us in the same class with Thine elect flock, and have mercy on us. Amen.
Let us serve the Master eagerly, for He distributes wealth to His slaves. Each of us, according to the measure that we have received, let us increase the talent of grace. Let one adorn wisdom by means of good deeds. Let another celebrate the Liturgy with splendor; let another communicate the word of faith to the uninitiated; let another spread about his wealth upon the poor. For thus we increase our loan, and as faithful stewards of the grace given, we may be rendered more worthy of our Master’s favor.