Thursday, December 20, 2007

The 10 Bridesmaids

Thursday, December 20, 2007 -- Week of 3 Advent (Year 2)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 939)
Psalms 50 (morning) [59, 60] or 33 (evening)
Zechariah 4:1-14
Revelation 4:9 - 5:5
Matthew 25:1-13

The story of the ten bridesmaids is unique to Matthew. It has the flavor of a wonderful piece of folk wisdom, and, typical to Matthew, lends itself to allegory. It might be read as a story of preparation and resource; it might also be read as an allegory about good deeds and righteous action.

The wise person is the one who is prepared, with sufficient resources to face challenges that may extend over time. There are moments of decision and turning points when decisive events occur. Some moments have an either/or quality to them. You are either ready and prepared, or you are not. And if not, loss cannot be postponed or avoided.

There are some things that others can help us with. Some things can't be shared. If one interprets this parable allegorically in a way that is consistent with Matthew's theology, the oil might represent the good deeds and righteous action of the bridesmaids. When the arrival of the groom is delayed, the oil that the foolish ones have brought is not sufficient. They ask the others to bail them out, to give them some of their oil. The answer is "no." The righteous action of one cannot be shared with another. You must provide your own.

Many people face similar dilemmas when dealing with a loved one who has acted irresponsibly and expects to be saved from the consequences of their action. It is not unusual for families to live for decades in a dependent/co-dependent relationship with someone who repeatedly "runs out of oil" because of destructive choices, habits or addictions. Eventually there comes the time when the "wise" realize that responsibility cannot be shared, when the "foolish" must be allowed to take responsibility for their own life, even when that means unpleasant or threatening consequences. Sometimes the answer must be "no."



To Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the "Morning Reflections" email list,
go to our Subscriptions page --

The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


At 9:28 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

"Sometimes the answer must be 'no.'"
To which they usually say, "But that's not fair!"
I mention this to point out the "exclusion" of those not prepared. This is a sticking point for people these days.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Bob said...

"If one interprets this parable allegorically in a way that is consistent with Matthew's theology, the oil might represent the good deeds and righteous action of the bridesmaids." Well, it's a parable, after all.
What has worked for me is the interpretation of the bridesmaids as being in two sets of five . . . and the five being my five senses. Either I have the oil of a right attitude/spirit (thus getting things 'right') or I lack that right attitude/spirit (thus not getting things 'right').
When the interpretation tries to exclude sections of the population (thus creating division) . . . well, just how can that help me? I might be one of the excluded, so why bother?

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

As so many wise mothers have said, "Life is not fair." One of the most difficult passages for many families is creating boundaries when loved ones create unhealthy dependencies. It's something I hear so much about from families. Al-Anon is helpful.

I really like your "five senses" interpretation. Thanks so much. So often the parables and Biblical stories do work best when we personalize and internalize them. Well done.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home