“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Both wise and foolish fall asleep in the parable, but in the end, those who “stay awake” are the virgins with oil in their lamps. This recalls the verse in the Song of Solomon in which the bride speaks with longing for the bridegroom:
I was sleeping, but my heart was awake. The sound of my lover knocking!
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1).
The kingdom of heaven is Adam divinized—fingertip to fingertip, head to toe—all in Christ and Christ in all.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).
The word for “single” in Greek, haploús (ἁπλοῦς), is literally “without folds,” referring to a single, undivided focus without a “double agenda.” The eye of Christ is simple, limpid and uncomplicated.
Our lamp is the eye of Christ, lit by the oil of the Holy Spirit, fusing divinity and humanity (the wedding) in the heart of the Father.
Simplicity and singleness of eye are worth more than all earthly treasures.
Deification is becoming all eye—the divine eye: “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love” (Meister Eckhart, Sermon 57, Walshe trans.).
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The journey to become “children of the heavenly Father” is infinitely short and infinitely long—a journey to the center of the heart where the Trinity dwells.
That place of tranquility in the still, silent center is what the desert tradition calls hesychia (from the Greek, meaning stillness, quiet, rest, silence). In this state, a person has conquered the passions through prayer, watchfulness and self-denial. A watchman is alert, awake and aware, like the wise servants waiting for their master to return from the marriage feast (Luke 12:35-38), or the five wise virgins who had their lamps alight when the bridegroom came (Matthew 25:1-13).
The desert tradition also calls this state of tranquility apatheia (passionlessness)—a condition of inner equanimity when one is no longer moved against the will by thoughts and emotions. The person is fully aware of every action proceeding from thought and emotion, and takes responsibility for it.
The state of being tossed in the storm of thoughts and emotions may be compared to the troposphere—the lowest layer of the atmosphere where weather occurs. Rain, sunshine, snow, hail, mist, clouds, etc… thoughts and emotions change continuously.
Above and beyond this tropospheric state, the person in hesychia/apatheia can observe with clarity the thoughts and emotions as they come and go, and act freely rather than by impulse or habit. Prayer, watchfulness and self-denial lead a person to interior freedom.
Self-conquest by the grace of the Holy Spirit allows one to sit in the lap of the heavenly Father and appreciate how “he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” The One who provides the weather for the earth is infinitely above it, and therefore perfectly loving and detached. Love and detachment go hand in hand. Above the spiritual troposphere, Jesus had compassion on those who hated him because he saw clearly that they were injuring themselves far more than they injured him. Such is the divine state to which we are called.
A watchful Eve and Adam would have stopped the serpent in his tracks as soon as the words, “Did God say…?” slipped out. A watchful Cain would have left his gift at the altar and reconciled himself with his brother before making his offering.
There is hope for the Ahabs and Jezebels of the world. Murderers, robbers, prostitutes and ruffians became some of the holiest saints in the desert. Holiness is open to all, just like the sun and the rain.