This day is the “Remembrance of the Ten Virgins.” During the Evening Service, ten youths are vested in choir robes, and each is given a lighted candle “following the example of the ten maidens” (Matthew 25:1-13). From the hymn sung during this service, how can we “prepare spiritual oil so that we may enter the bridal chamber of the immortal Bridegroom with burning lamps?” This preparation is the entire life and faith journey of any Christian. Arakel Bagheeshetsi of the 15th century tells us the importance of charity, mercy, and almsgiving (ողորմութիւն) as preparation for our Bridegroom:
But they didn’t show charity. The light of their holiness’ lamp went out, the door of the bridal chamber was shut, and they did not see the immortal Groom. The wise, however, who had brought oil, a symbol of charity, opened the door of the bridal chamber, and entering, they did see the ineffable King.
The parable of ten virgins makes it clear that we cannot borrow oil from others. The holy muron with which the priest anoints each baptized person is required for everyone to receive salvation from God. We cannot borrow someone’s baptism, nor can we borrow their works of compassion. Each person is responsible to share in the death and resurrection of Christ through baptism and accountable to live out and fulfill our baptismal pledge, preparing for Christ’s return. This, of course, is not a solo act, but lived out communally within a family, the Body of Christ. Every baptized individual has a special role to play in the Body of Christ, with unique gifts to share.