Tuesday after Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost.

On the Conduct of the Wise and Foolish Virgins at the Coming of the Bridegroom.

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Conduct of the Wise and Foolish Virgins at the Coming of the Bridegroom.

Endeavor to realize as fully as possible the scene of confusion and excitement that ensued when the slumbering virgins were suddenly startled out of their sleep by the cry: “Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him.” (St. Matt. xv. 6.) How quickly they all sprang up and took their lamps, for they were conscious that all their past would be a failure if they were to miss the right moment for going forth to greet the bridegroom.

1st. “Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil for our lamps are gone out.” (v. 7, 8.) The frightened virgins, startled out of their sleep, instantly took their lamps; that is to say, at the hour of the universal awakening all the disembodied spirits will return to their respective bodies, and make trial of their light, test it in order to ascertain whether, beside the faith in which they departed this life, they possess a sufficient amount of the oil of good works to keep their lamps alight. Whilst the wise virgins, who were wise in time, discover to their joy that they have enough of this oil, the foolish virgins only perceive with dismay their lack of it when it is too late, and resort to entreaties, endeavoring to supply their own deficiency by the merits of others. But mark this attentively; this resource fails them now. As the time for action is past, so the time for successful supplication is gone by; no intercession of the saints, no vicarious satisfaction on the part of the just avails any longer; solely by the good works, the merits each one severally brings with him, is the destiny of that individual decided by the Bridegroom. Now do you understand, my soul, why those virgins are called foolish? Is it not true foolishness to neglect to provide for ourselves, to neglect invoking the aid of others, when our efforts and their supplications would be of avail, and only to rouse ourselves to action, to call upon others when nothing we or they can do is of any use? It is not the five virgins in the parable alone who act thus foolishly, perhaps you do so too. Examine yourself on this point.

2d. Consider the answer which the wise virgins make to the petition of the others; they refuse, saying: “Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you.” (v. 9.) Observe, as St. Jerome here remarks, that the wise virgins did not answer thus out of avarice, but out of fear. Alas! the judgment is so strict that even the good feel cause for apprehension, the more advanced in sanctity fear and tremble, they are not free from dread lest their oil should not hold out. Listen to what the Apostle Paul himself said: “I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet I am not hereby justified, but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” (I. Cor. iv. 4.) Do we not see how the most eminent saints looked forward with trembling to the great day of account? Yet you, who are not even blameless as an ordinary Christian, much less are you a saint, feel little or no apprehension! A man like St. Paul feared lest his oil should prove insufficient, he who had labored more than all the apostles; and you with your few scanty drops, look forward unconcernedly to the advent of the Bridegroom! “Thou thunderest forth over my head Thy judgments, Lord, and Thou shakest all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul is terrified exceedingly. I stand amazed and consider: for the heavens are not pure in Thy sight. If in the angels Thou hast found sin and hast not spared them, what will become of me?” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 14.) So speaks the great ascetic in holy fear and dread, and you, who have scarcely made a step on the path of asceticism, feel so little apprehension at the thought of the judgment to come! You must indeed be a foolish virgin if it is thus with you.

3d. Consider the end. The Bridegroom came, and we are told: “They that were ready went in with Him to the marriage, and the door was shut. But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us. But He answering said: Amen I say unto you, I know you not.” (v. 10-12.) Just as unspeakable as is the mercy of our God before the judgment, even so inexorable is His strict justice subsequently to it. Our Lord does not know those who arrive so late; He did not see them in His suite. For Jesus to say He knows not the soul, is for her equivalent to the sentence of damnation. Oh how these virgins are to be commiserated! Try to realize, my soul, the torture, the bitter agony of their position. Virgins, called to and destined for a place at the celestial marriage feast, chosen to escort the heavenly Bridegroom, they stand there forlorn, thrust out into the darkness of night; the door of the banqueting hall, where they were intended that is the saddest part of the story to have a place, is closed against them for evermore. May their pitiful fate stimulate you, my soul, to lay to heart the exhortation wherewith our Lord closes this parable: “Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.” (v. 13.)

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ

(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)

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