A Warning Against Pride
St. Nikolaj of Zicha
In today's readings, messages and hymns the Church suggest to us the warning against pride. Yesterday against jealousy, today against pride. If jealousy is poison then pride is absolute foolishness. For this reason does Christ – in the parable of the five wise and five foolish, senseless virgins – call the other five virgins foolish. “The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish” (Matt. 25:1-2). Then! Then the Kingdom of Heaven will not be like a seed which the Sower plants and the seed grows and brings fruit. Then there will be no time to plant nor to wait. Nor will the Kingdom of Heaven then be like leaven which is placed in dough and we wait for it all to become leavened. Then there will be no waiting. Nor will the Kingdom of Heaven be like a pearl which the merchant seeks. Then there will be no seeking nor waiting to find. Nor will the kingdom of Heaven be like a dragnet that is cast into the sea for the gathering of some of every kind. For there, too, is waiting. But then there will be no waiting. For, “then the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the power of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven...and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24).
The Kingdom of Heaven can no longer be as it was in other parables and comparisons but will be like the ten virgins who fall asleep until they are awakened in the middle of the night with the cry: “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” Sleep here is understood as death. As the number ten here symbolizes the fullness of numbers, with the ten sleeping virgins we can understand all the deceased before the coming of the Judge. All will awake, therefore, both the wise and the foolish. For the cry will be great and frightening: “Behold the Bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him”! Truly there has not been a more frightening thunder and crash than the echo of the trumpet of the Angels! The earth will shake from that thundering and crash and cry and echo, the sea will toss to and fro, all of man's buildings will crush to dust and ashes. But this crashing and thundering will not be for the sake of confusing nature and for the destruction of man's and God's deeds – no, that is incidental and secondary – but the goal of that thundering and crashing will be to awaken the dead in the tombs.
When all the dead rise from their tombs, they will all go to meet the Bridegroom of Christ in the darkness. In the darkest of nights, in truth. For neither the sun nor the moon will give light, as it is said. In that deep darkness the righteousness of the souls of the righteous will be their light. The kandilo, the lamp of their souls will be filled with oil and that lamp will give light to their minds when they go to meet the Son of God. Those with such minds does the Lord call wise. While the foolish He called the souls who during their lives only attained one virtue, let us say virginity, and because of that one and only virtue they became prideful that they mercilessly hated and mocked others, who might have had other virtues but didn't have the virtue of virginity. Truly the purity of a virgin is the angelic virtue. This is why among our people a virgin is respected as some great being and even more so the virgin monastic who is completely dedicated to God's service, body and soul. But, who would dare say that long-suffering is not an angelic virtue? Or, who would have courage to place mercy at a lower level when we know the example of the merciful Samaritan? Or, who would open their mouth to say something against humility and meekness when the Lord stressed them at the beginning of the Beatitudes? Then, courage in sacrificing oneself for truth until a martyr's death? Then, the queen of all virtues – love, who is permitted to dispense of it and still hope in salvation? It is not enough to simply clean our homes and keep them empty and cold. A clean home should be arranged and filled and decorated and censed and warmed. In such a house we can welcome a great guest with no shame. It is not enough even to simply clean our kandilos to make them shine, but they need to be filled with the oil of all the virtues without exception. The Spirit of God lights this kandilo. But let us leave the thoughts of the foolish virgins. Let us direct our eyes to the wise virgins who through the darkness of that frightful hour go with their lit lamps in meeting Christ, like beautiful virgins go to meet their bridegrooms.