Sunday, March 31, 2013

Let Them All In

Detail from the "Parable of the Ten Virgins"

Depicted in the Mansfield Traquair Centre Mural, Edinburgh
By Irish artist, Phoebe Anna Traquair, 1852 - 1936
Prominent in the Arts & Crafts Movement of Scotland


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I love the way Kazantzakis retells this parable:

Jesus raised his hand. “Virgins, my sisters, what do you suppose the kingdom of heaven is like? It is like a wedding. God is the bridegroom, and the soul of man is the bride. A wedding takes place in heaven, and the whole of mankind is invited. Forgive me, my brothers, but God speaks to me thus, in parables, and it is in parables that I shall speak now.

“There was to be a wedding in a certain village. Ten virgins took their lamps and went out to receive the bridegroom. Five were wise and took along flasks filled with oil. The other five were foolish and carried no extra oil with them. They stood outside the house of the bride and waited and waited, but the bridegroom was late and they grew tired and slept. At midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming! Run out to receive him!’ The ten virgins jumped up to fill their lamps, which were about to go out. But the five foolish virgins had no more oil. ‘Give us a little oil, sisters,’ they said to the wise virgins, ‘for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘We haven’t any left for you. Go and get some.’ And while the foolish virgins ran to find oil, the bridegroom arrived, the wise virgins went in, and the door was shut.

“A little while later the foolish virgins returned, their lamps lighted, and began to pound on the door. ‘Open the door for us!’ they cried and pleaded. But inside, the wise virgins laughed. ‘It serves you right,’ they answered them. ‘Now the door is closed. Go away!’ But the others wept and begged, ‘Open the door! Open the door! Open the door!’ And then…”

Jesus stopped. Once more he surveyed the old chief, the guests, the honest housewives, the virgins with the lighted lamps. He smiled.

“And then?” said Nathanael, who was listening with gaping mouth. His simple, sluggish mind had begun to stir. “And then, Rabbi, what was the outcome?”

“What would you have done, Nathanael,” Jesus asked, pinning his large, bewitching eyes on him, “what would you have done if you had been the bridegroom?”

Nathanael was silent. He still was not entirely clear in his mind what he would have done. One moment he thought to send them away. The door had definitely been closed, and that was what the Law required. But the next moment he pitied them and thought to let them in.

“What would you have done, Nathanael, if you had been the bridegroom?” Jesus asked again, and slowly, persistently, his beseeching eyes caressed the cobbler’s simple, guileless face.

“I would have opened the door,” the other answered in a low voice so that the old chief would not hear. He had been unable to oppose the eyes of the son of Mary any longer.

“Congratulations, friend Nathanael,” said Jesus happily, and he stretched forth his hand as though blessing him. “This moment, though you are still alive, you enter Paradise. The bridegroom did exactly as you said: he called to the servants to open the door. ‘This is a wedding,’ he cried. ‘Let everyone eat, drink and be merry. Open the door for the foolish virgins and wash and refresh their feet, for they have run much.’ ”

Tears welled up between Magdalene’s long eyelashes. Ah, if she could only kiss the mouth that uttered such words! Simple Nathanael glowed from head to toe as though he were actually in Paradise already. But old poison nose, the village chief, lifted his staff.

“You’re going contrary to the Law, son of Mary,” he screeched.
“The Law goes contrary to my heart,” Jesus calmly replied.


by Nikos Kazantsakis
from The Last Temptation of Christ, Chapter 15 (pp 216 - 17)

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Happy Easter!

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