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Keep Your Lamp Lighted

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This Sunday’s liturgy is about being wise and being wise especially during the days when the coming of the Lord is near. It is not really about the coming judgment, but about one’s preparation for that day. The parable of the ten virgins therefore should be taken as an admonition to be prepared.

In the baptismal liturgy, there is a portion where the lighting ceremony of the Easter vigil is repeated. This happens after the water has been poured and the chrism has been applied on the baptized. “Receive the light of Christ.” Says the priest as he passes the lighted candle to the parents of the baptized and in their turn light up the candles of the those around. “May you keep this light burning until the day when the Lord comes.”

This part of the baptismal liturgy should be evoked by the light that the ten virgins should keep burning while they wait for the coming of the bridegroom. Christian wisdom then should help us discern what is symbolized by the oil that keeps the light burning and which the five wise virgins had in sufficient supply.

In the letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul has a section where he recalls the symbolism of the light at baptism (Ephesians 5:8-18):

Indeed you were once in darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth, discerning what is in accord with God’s will.

If God is light, then being a child of God which one becomes in baptism is being a child of the Light. Being a child of the light, the Christian should have not part in darkness and the deeds and attitudes that are hidden by it.

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness: but rather expose them. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light: for all that is made manifest is light.

“Let your light shine,” says the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. “So that those who see you may give praise to your Father in Heaven.” The light that shines in the darkness may be the suns rays breaking the horizon in the first hour of the day. Or it may be the lights of a distant city beginning to appear in the view of one who has been wandering about lost in the night, hungry and tired. Or it may even be — in our times of brownouts — a candle being lit in a darkened room. Paul seems to say that as what is hidden in darkness is exposed when light is kindled, so too, when Christians live as they should, deeds of darkness heretofore considered good by a society that approves of it or tolerates it, would be shown as evil and manifested without ambiguity for what it is.

For this reason it is said (in the baptismal liturgy?)
Rise, thou that sleepest,

and arise from the dead:

and Christ shall be your light.

If the Christian is the lamp, and Christ is the light that shines out from him, this is so because by one’s baptism one has become like the candles of the Easter Vigil that draw their light from the great Paschal candle. He no longer sleeps the sleep of sin; he is awakened to the Day of God’s salvation in Christ. In the parable of the ten virgins, the bridesmaids are awakened to the call at the arrival of the Groom. You can imagine them there sleeping as their lamps burn away. At the moment when the Groom arrives the foolish ones realize that their lamps are dying out but they have no oil to replenish its fire. What distinguishes the five wise virgins from these latter is that the former brought with them oil that will last while they waited.

See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise, but as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore, become not unwise: but understanding what is the will of God. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is lust: but be ye filled with the Holy Spirit

In these lines from Paul he tells us how to live wisely:

  1. to live according to the will of God as discerned daily
  2. make well use of the time given to us as time for repentance
  3. to let the Spirit be the power that moves us

Perhaps, it is also in these lines that one can discern the symbol of the oil that replenishes the fire of the lamp that one holds in the dark as one waits for the coming of the Lord.

Originally posted 2005-11-06 20:59:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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