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In certain parts of the East it is the custom for a man when he is married to bring home his bride at night, and for his relatives and friends to go out with lamps and torches and music to meet him.
Ten young women had been invited to meet the bridegroom with their lamps burning and to sit down with him at the wedding-feast. Five of them were wise and five were foolish. The wise ones took a supply of oil in case their lamps should burn out before the bridegroom arrived; the foolish five took no oil but what was in their lamps. But before the bridegroom came they all fell asleep.
At midnight there was a cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” But five lamps had almost burnt out, and the foolish virgins said unto the wise, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.” But the wise ones answered, “Not so; lest there be not enough for us and for you. Go ye, rather, to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage-feast, and the door was shut.
Afterwards, came also the other virgins, saying, “Lord, Lord, open the door to us.” But he answered and said, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not,” and would not open the door to them.
In this parable the bridegroom means Jesus returning to earth, on the Day of Judgment. The ten virgins are the people of this world, some of whom have their hearts full of the love of God and keep their lamps burning with a steady and bright light; that is, they fulfil God’s commandments and obey the teachings of Christ. The others have not this love in their hearts, and are not prepared for Christ’s coming. Their lamps give out a feeble light and soon will go out.