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The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Decani) Icon - F395

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In the Lord's parable of the Ten Virgins, he speaks of five foolish virgins and five wise, who are awaiting the bridegroom to enter his wedding feast. The wise brought enough oil for their lamps to keep watch all night, while the foolish had to go into the village to buy more. While they were away, the bridegroom came and took the wise into his feast, while the foolish were left outside.

This parable is found in the Gospel reading at Vespers on Holy Tuesday, Matthew 24:36–26:2. The meaning is clear: that the Lord Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, may arrive at any time. We do not know how long we have left to repent. Therefore, we must keep watch and always be ready.

The theme of watchfulness is found throughout the services of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. We are not merely remembering and re-enacting events of the past, but these events also take on an eschatological character: as we look forward to the feast of the Lord's Resurrection, we also look forward to the Lord's Second Coming and the Last Judgment.

This icon is from the Decani monastery in Kosovo-Serbia. It depicts Jesus as the Bridegroom, and the wedding feast takes place in a garden that represents Paradise, reminding us both of the parable itself and the eternal fate of every soul.


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