Behold the Bridegroom Cometh in the Middle of the Night

Then, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. He shows that the time intervening will not be short, leading His disciples away from the expectation that His kingdom was quite immediately to appear. For this indeed they hoped, therefore He is continually holding them back from this hope. And at the same time He intimates this too, that death is a sleep. For they slept, He says.

And about midnight there was a cry made. Either He was continuing the parable, or again He shows that the resurrection will be at night. But the cry Paul also indicates, saying, With a shout, with a voice of an archangel, with the last trump, He shall come down from Heaven. And what mean the trumpets, and what says the cry? The bridegroom comes. When therefore they had trimmed their lamps, the foolish say unto the wise, Give us of your oil. Again He calls them foolish, showing that nothing can be more foolish than they who are wealthy here, and depart naked there, where most of all we have need of humanity, where we want much oil. But not in this respect only were they foolish, but also because they looked to receive it there, and sought it out of season; and yet nothing could be more humane than those virgins, who for this especially were approved. Neither do they seek for it all, for, Give us, they say, of your oil; and the urgency of their need is indicated; for our lamps, they say, are going out. But even so they failed, and neither the humanity of those whom they asked, nor the easiness of their request, nor their necessity and want, made them obtain.

But what now do we learn from hence? That no man can protect us there, if we are betrayed by our works, not because he will not, but because he cannot. For these too take refuge in the impossibility. This the blessed Abraham also indicated, saying, Between us and you there is a great gulf, so that not even when willing is it permitted them to pass it.

from Homily 78 of St John Chrysostom’s Commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew