Notes & Commentary:
Ten virgins. By these are signified all mankind. By the bridegroom, Christ; by the bride, the Church;
by oil, grace and charity. (Witham) --- The kingdom of heaven is not unfrequently compared to the Church militant;
which, as it is composed of both just and wicked, reprobate and elect, is deservedly compared to five wise and five foolish
virgins: the wise constantly aspiring after their blessed country; the foolish, with all their fasts and austerities, wishing
to procure nothing more than the empty esteem of men. (St. Gregory) --- Went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride;
in the Greek, it is simply, before the bridegroom. The custom among the Jews was, that the bridegroom should go to
fetch his spouse, and conduct her with solemnity to his house. (Bible de Vence) --- This was the conclusive ceremony, and
done in the night-time. The young women of the vicinity, in order to do her honour, went to meet her with lighted lamps. Modern
travellers inform us, that this custom still obtains with the eastern nations, particularly the Persians. Hence the Latin
phrase, ducere uxorem, to marry.
Ver. 4. But
the wise took oil. Under this parable, we have the state of all Christians in their mortal pilgrimage justly delineated.
The wise took oil in their lamps, the necessary qualifications of grace and charity, joined with divine faith, and an additional
supply of oil in their vessels; i.e. they laid up in store for themselves a solid foundation of good works. St. Gregory teaches,
that by the lamps, faith is meant; and by the light, good works. Hence he concludes that the bad, although they
have lamps, i.e. faith, no less than the good, shall be excluded; because their lamps are out, i.e. their faith is dead, without
charity and good works to enlighten them. (hom. xii.) --- St. Augustine also declares, that these lighted lamps are good works,
viz. works of mercy and good conversation, which shine forth before men. (ep. 120. chap. xxxiii.) --- And, that this oil is
a right inward intention, directing all our works to the greater glory of God, and not to the praise of ourselves in the sight
of men. (Idem. ibid. [St. Augustine, ep. 120. chap. xxxiii.]) --- The foolish virgins had a little oil in their lamps
at first, sufficient to shine before men, by some little external shew of piety, or certain works done through fear, profit,
or human respects; but had made no provision of oil in their vessels, i.e. in their hearts and conscience, no
provision of solid piety and charity, by means of which they might, like the prudent virgins, produce good works to
Ver. 5. And
while the bridegroom (Jesus Christ) tarried, i.e. delayed his coming, and thus protracted the time of repentance,
they all slumbered and slept; viz. they all died. Hence St. Paul, nolo vos ignorare de dormientibus. But the
reason why Jesus Christ says they slumbered is, because they were to rise again: and by the expression, whilst the bridegroom
tarried, Christ wishes to shew us that a very short time will elapse between his first and second coming. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 6. There
was a cry. So shall we all have to rise again at the sound of the last trumpet, to meet our judge, either like the wise
virgins, who having their oil ready, and their lamps trimmed and burning, soon prepare themselves to give in their accounts
to their Lord; or, like the foolish, who having made no provision of the oil of good works, are compelled to seek it at the
time they are to be judged. (St. Augustine) --- It is said he will come at midnight; i.e. when least expected.
Ver. 8. For
our lamps are gone out. Thus too many trusting to their faith alone, and leading a tepid indifference life, are negligent
in preparing themselves by good works for the coming of the bridegroom. But when they perceived themselves called away from
this life, to go and meet their judge, they then begin to find their lamps extinguished, and to think of procuring for themselves
the oil of good works, by bequeathing their effects to the poor. Though we ought not to despair of the salvation of these,
still there is great room to fear; for, a death-bed repentance is seldom sincere, more seldom, or never perfect, and always
Ver. 9. Go
ye rather to them that sell. The wise virgins do not there advise the foolish to go and buy, but upbraid them for the
poor store of good works they have laid up. They had before only sought the praises of men in their good actions, and therefore
are answered by the wise: "go now to those to whom you have given all your actions; go and see what their praises will avail,
what peace of conscience they can give you: and, if they have praised you, and made you esteemed in the eyes of men, see if
they can do the same before God." (St. Augustine)
Ver. 10. And
the door was shut. After the final day of judgment, there will be no room for prayers and good works. (St. Jerome) ---
For, after having received those within its walls, who have put on in some degree the nature of the angels, the gate to the
city of bliss is closed for ever. (St. Augustine)
Ver. 13. Watch
ye. St. Augustine asks, how can we be always watching, it being necessary for each one to give himself sufficient time
to sleep and rest from his many labours? He answers the question in these words: We may always keep watching to our hearts
by faith, hope, charity, and all other good works. But when we awake, like the five wise virgins, we must arise and trim our
lamps, by supplying them with the oil of good works. Then they will not go out, nor will the soothing oil of a good conscience
be wanting to us. Then will the bridegroom come and introduce us to his house, where we shall never need sleep or rest; nor
will our lamps ever be in danger of going out. Whilst we are in this life, we labour; and our lamps, blown about by the winds
of innumerable temptations, are always in danger of being extinguished; but soon their flame shall become more brilliant,
and the temptations we have suffered here shall not diminish, but increase its lustre. (St. Augustine, serm. xxiv.)
Ver. 14. But
that the apostles and all men might learn how they ought to watch, and to prepare for the last day, he subjoins another instructive
parable of the ten talents. It has a great affinity with that mentioned in St. Luke, xix. 11. But this last was spoken at
a different time, place, and occasion. It differs also in some points. --- For even as a man, &c. This passage
is to be understood of our divine Redeemer, who ascended to heaven encompassed by his human nature. The proper abode for the
flesh is the earth; when, therefore, it is placed in the kingdom of God, it may be said to be gone into a far country. (St.
Gregory) --- But when we speak of his divine nature, we cannot say that he is gone into a far country, but only when we speak
of his humanity. (Origen)
Ver. 15. In
the parable of the talents, the master is God, talents, graces, &c. (Witham) --- From this, it appears, we can do no good
of ourselves, but only by means of God's grace, though he requires our co-operation; since the servants could only make use
of the talents given them to gain others. (A talent is £187 10s.) It is also worthy of remark, that both he who received five
and he who received only two talents, received an equal reward of entering into the joy of our Lord; which shews, that only
an account will be taken according to what we have received, and that however mean and despicable our abilities may be, we
still have an equal facility with the most learned of entering heaven. (Jansenius) --- The servant to whom this treasure was
delivered, is allegorically explained of the faithful adorers of God, in the Jewish law, who departing from it, became followers
of Christ, and therefore deserving of a double recompense. ... The servant to whom the two talents were delivered, is understood
of the Gentiles, who were justified in the faith and confession of the Father and the Son, and confessed our Lord Jesus Christ,
God and man, composed of body and soul; and as the people of the Jews doubled the five talents they received, so the Gentiles,
by the duplication of their two talents, merited a double recompense also. ... But the servant who received only one talent,
and hid it in the ground, represented such of the Jews as persisted in the observation of the old law, and thus kept their
talent buried in the ground, for fear the Gentiles should be converted. (St. Hilary)
Ver. 18. He
that had received the one. The man who hid this one talent, represents all those who, having received any good quality,
whether mental or corporal, employ it only on earthly things. (St. Gregory) --- Origen is also of the same sentiment: if you
see any one, says he, who has received from God the gift of teaching and instructing others to salvation, yet will not exercise
himself in this function, he buries his talent in the ground, like this unworthy servant, and must expect to receive the like
Ver. 19. After
a long time. This represents the time that is to intervene between our Saviour's ascension and his last coming. For, as
he is the Master, who went into a far country, i.e. to heaven, after he had inculcated the relative duties of each man in
his respective state of life; so shall he come at the last day, and reckon with all men, commending those who have employed
their talents well, and punishing such as have made a bad use of them. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 20. I
have gained other five. Free-will, aided by the grace of God, doth evidently merit as we see here.
Ver. 24. I
know that thou art a hard man. This is an insignificant part, that is, an ornament of the parable only; as also when it
is said: I should have received mine with usury. ver. 27. (Witham) --- This seems to have been an adage levelled at
avaricious men, who are never pleased but with what increases their hoards. Under this symbol is also depicted the excuse
of many, who accuse God of being the cause of their idleness, both here and in the judgment to come; as that
God is too severe and unbending, whose service is extremely hard, and who adopts, rejects, and reprobates whom he pleases;
who deals out heavier burdens than the weak nature of man is made to support; who denies the grace of obedience, and thus
wishes to reap where he has not sown. (Jansenius)
Thou evil and slothful servant, for thus calumniating thy master; if I wish to reap where I have not sown, how ought
you to fear my just indignation, if were I have sown I find nothing by your neglect to reap. Thus our Lord retorts the accusation
upon the servant, as in Luke xix. 22. Out of thy own mouth I judge thee, thou wicked servant.
Ver. 29. To
every one that hath, &c. That is, who hath, so as to have made good use of, or to have improved, what was committed
to his trust and management. See the notes Matthew xiii, ver. 12. (Witham) --- When those who are gifted with the grace of
understanding for the benefit of others, refuse to make a proper use of the gift, that grace is of consequence withdrawn;
whereas had they employed it with zeal and diligence, they would have received additional graces. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxix.)
--- This, moreover, shews that God never requires of men more than he has enabled them to perform.
Ver. 30. And
the unprofitable servant. Thus not only the rapacious, the unjust, and evil doers, but also all those who neglect to do
good, are punished with the greatest severity. Let Christians listen to these words, and while time will permit them, embrace
the means of salvation. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxix.) --- Let no one suffer his talent to lie uncultivated, and, as it were,
hidden and buried in this unhappy earth of the world and the flesh, which engages all their thoughts and affections more than
the honour and glory of God, or the eternal welfare of their own or their neighbour's souls. --- The foregoing parables manifestly
tend to excite in us great watchfulness, under the just apprehension of the strict account which hereafter we must give of
our respective talents. Jesus, therefore, naturally concludes these parables with a description of that awful day which is
to succeed the final reckoning, and which will unalterably fix our abode either in eternal happiness, or in eternal misery.
In this description we are to remark, 1. the preparations for this awful scene; 2. the sentence pronounced by the judge; 3.
the execution of this sentence.
Ver. 34. Shall
the king say to them ... on his right hand. By setting forth to all the world the good works of his faithful servants,
the Sovereign Judge silences the murmurs of the reprobate, who might otherwise object that they had it not in their power
to do good. In the same manner, the conduct of the wise virgins was the condemnation of the foolish ones; the diligence of
the faithful servant, of the sloth and drunkenness of the idle one; the zeal of the servants who multiplied the talents entrusted
to them, of him that hid his talent in the ground; and the fervour of the observers of the commandments, of the negligence
and remissness of those who are ever transgressing them. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxx.) --- These works of mercy, says St. Augustine,
prevail towards life everlasting, and to the blotting out of former sins; in Psalm xlix.
Ver. 35. For
I was hungry, &c. We may take notice, that the wicked at the day of judgment, are said to be condemned for having
omitted to perform good works. (Witham) --- St. Augustine, in his 33d sermon, brings a beautiful reason why the kingdom of
heaven is bestowed solely upon the works of mercy, and eternal damnation for the neglect of them; viz. because, however just
a man may be, still he has many failings to atone for, on account of which the kingdom of heaven might be justly denied him:
but because he has shewn mercy to his neighbours, he deserves in like manner to have mercy shewn him. But the wicked, not
having shewn mercy to their neighbours, nor redeemed their sins by alms-deeds, or the like, are thus delivered up to eternal
damnation. (Jansenius, concord.) --- Jesus Christ only mentions one species of good works, though others may be equally meritorious;
for the means of salvation are not precisely the same for all the saints; some are saved by poverty, others by solitude, and
each by that virtue which he shall have practised in the greatest degree of perfection.
Ver. 36. And
you visited me. How easy are the things our Saviour requires at our hands! He will not say at the day of judgment: "I
was in prison, and you delivered me; I was sick, and you healed me; but only this, you visited me, you came to me." (St. Chrysostom,
hom. lxxx.) --- This seems particularly addressed to Christians engaged in the cares of the world, whose salvation principally
depends on the practice of works of mercy.
Ver. 40. As
long as you did it to one of these, my least brethren. Can there be a more forcible motive to charity, than the assurance
of revelation that the Son of God will accept all good of offices done to the afflicted, as done to himself. This condescension
of the part of Jesus Christ, will fill the elect with sentiments of profound admiration and astonishment. --- Then with fire
in his eyes, and terror in his countenance, he shall say to the wicked: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,
which was prepared for the devil and his angels. It was not originally created for rebellious man; for man was created subsequently
to the fall and damnation of the rebel angels: and though he imitated their transgression, the sentence of everlasting burning
was reversed by Jesus Christ ... By his blood man has been redeemed from eternal punishment. If many, notwithstanding, are
yet condemned to never-ending flames, they are punished under the quality of the slaves of the devil: for as they have wilfully
followed his rebellious example, they must expect with him to participate in his torments. (Consult. i. John iii. 8.)
Ver. 41. Prepared
for the devil. When Christ invited the just to his heavenly kingdom, he calls it a kingdom prepared for them from the
foundation of the world; a kingdom of inexpressible happiness, which from all eternity he designed for those who he knew would
faithfully serve him. But, when he pronounces the sentence of the reprobate, he speaks in a widely different manner. He calls
it an everlasting fire, prepared not for them, but for the devils and wicked spirits, their accomplices. They have chosen
to cast themselves into it; they must therefore look upon themselves as the authors of all their miseries and sufferings.
(St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxx.) --- The pain of loss is here expressed by depart from me, and the pain of sense by eternal
fire. (Menochius and Maldonatus)
Ver. 42. Gave
me not. Jesus Christ chargeth them not here with a want of faith, but with a want of good works. They certainly believed,
but they attended not to good works; as if a dead faith, i.e. a faith not working by charity, could bring them to heaven.
(St. Augustine, de fide & oper. chap. xv. and ad Dulcit. q. 2. ad 4.) --- Jesus Christ suffers his members to want, in
mercy to them, and to afford others an opportunity of shewing their love for him, and of redeeming their sins by alms-deeds,
as was said to the king of the Chaldeans, peccata tua eleemosynis redime. (Daniel iv.)
Ver. 46. Everlasting
punishment. The rewards and torments of a future life are declared by Jesus Christ, who is truth itself, to be eternal.
Let no one be found to argue hence against the goodness and mercy of God, for punishing sins committed in time with punishments
that are eternal. For 1. according to human laws, we see forgery and other crimes punished by death, which is in some measure
an eternal exclusion from society. 2. The will of the sinner is such, that he would sin eternally if he could; it is
an eternal God, a God of infinite majesty, who is offended. He essentially hates sin; and as, in hell there is no redemption,
the sin eternally continuing, the hatred God bears to sin must eternally continue, and with it eternal punishment. The doctrine
of those who pretend, with Origen, to question the eternity of the duration of hell's torments; who can say with him, video
infernum quasi senescentum, must encourage vice and embolden the sinner; for if the conviction of eternal torments is
not capable to restrain his malice, the doctrine of temporal punishment would be a much less restraint. The present world
would not be habitable, were there nothing for the wicked to apprehend after this life. There are many questions often proposed
with regard to the situation and nature of hell-fire, &c. &c. &c. but in all these and similar objects of curiosity,
it is best to adhere to the sage reflection of St. Augustine: "When we dispute upon a point very obscure, without any clear
and certain documents from the holy Scripture, the presumption of man should stop short, and lean not more to one than the
other side." (lib. ii. de pecc. meritis et remiss. chap. xxxvi. ep. 190. ad Optat. chap. v. No. 16.) --- On a recapitulation
of this long and most interesting discourse, we may observe, that in the first place, it treats of those wars and persecutions
which are to happen in the latter ages of the world; that it next proceeds to describe the heresies and schisms among Christians;
the general propagation of the gospel; the great apostacy at the time of the Antichrist; and lastly, the grand and closing
scene of the day of judgment. Thus these grand and momentous events are intimately connected with each other, and all materially
regard the Church of Christ.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The parable of the ten virgins, and of the
talents: the description of the last judgment.
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like to ten virgins, who, taking
their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.
2 Now five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
3 But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels, with the lamps.
5 And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go
ye forth to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil: for our lamps
are gone out.
9 The wise answered, saying: Lest there be not enough for us and for you,
go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 Now while they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they who were ready,
went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.
11 But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to
12 But he answering said: Amen, I say to you, I know you not.
13 *Watch ye, therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour.
14 *For even as a man going into a far country, called his servants, and
delivered to them his goods;
15 And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another
one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.
16 And he that had received the five talents, went his way, and traded
with the same, and gained other five.
17 And in like manner he that had received the two, gained other two.
18 But he that had received the one, going his way, digged in the earth,
and hid his lord's money.
19 But after a long time, the lord of those servants came, and reckoned
20 And he that had received the five talents, coming, brought other five
talents, saying: Lord, thou deliveredst to me five talents; behold I have gained other five over and above.
21 His lord said to him: Well done, thou good and faithful servant: because
thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou
deliveredst two talents to me: behold I have gained other two.
23 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because
thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 But he that had received the one talent, came, and said: Lord, I know
that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed:
25 And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here
thou hast that which is thine.
26 And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou
knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed.
27 Thou oughtest, therefore, to have committed my money to the bankers,
and at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
28 Take ye away, therefore, the talent from him, and give it to him that
hath ten talents.
29 *For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but
from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.
30 And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the exterior darkness.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
31 And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the Angels
with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty:
32 And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall
separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come,
ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 *For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave
me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in:
36 Naked, and you clothed me: *sick, and you visited me: I was in prison,
and you came to me.
37 Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry,
and fed thee: thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in: or naked, and
39 Or when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and came to thee?
40 And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen, I say to you: as long
as you did it to one of these, my least brethren, you did it to me.
41 Then shall he say to them also, that shall be on his left hand: *Depart
from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you
gave me not to drink:
43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me
not: sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee
hungry or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?
45 Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen, I say to you: as long as you
did it not to one of these least ones, neither did you do it to me.
46 *And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into
13: about the year A.D. 33.; Mark xiii. 33.
14: Luke xix. 12.
29: Matthew xiii. 12.; Mark iv. 25.; Luke viii. 18. and xix. 26.
35: Isaias viii. 7.[lviii. 7.?]; Ezechiel xviii. 7. and 16.
36: Ecclesiasticus vii. 39.
41: Psalm vi. 9.; Matthew vii. 23.; Luke xiii. 27.
46: Daniel xii. 2.; John v. 29.