On Holy Monday Christ’s teaching on the importance of genuine fruitfulness was emphasized. On Holy Tuesday, we are reminded of the importance of remaining watchful. This is illustrated in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1-13).
The parable is straightforward enough: ten virgins (bridesmaids) wait for the bridegroom, Who is Christ; five are prepared for His arrival, five are not. When the bridegroom appears suddenly in the dead of night, only the five wise, prepared, virgins are allowed into the wedding feast. The five foolish virgins are shut out.
The parallel to the Last Judgment is clear, underlined by one of the main hymns of Holy Week:
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching;
And again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep,
Lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom.
But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God,
Through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.
-Troparion for the Bridegroom Service
Be prepared, always, because Christ can return at any time, and we do not know how long any of us have left for repentance. This imperative of Christ is repeated also in the Church’s iconography. The image of the Ten Virgins abounds in churches and monasteries (in the latter the imagery of virginity also appeals). The bridegroom is always depicted as Christ, and the bridal chamber is often shown as a walled garden or city; i.e. it is paradise. The five foolish virgins’ disconsolate appearance cannot be overstated given the real meaning behind being locked out of a wedding party.
Thy bridal chamber, O my Saviour, do I behold all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me
-Exapostelarion of the Bridegroom Service
Gallery of Images:
Readings for Holy Tuesday:
Matins Gospel: Matthew 22:15 – 23:39
6th Hour (noon): Ezekiel 2:3 – 3:3
Vespers: Exodus 2:11-22; Job 2:1-10; Matthew 26:6-16
The Services of the Bridegroom (information about Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday)