With this hymn I complete my "hymn for every Sunday of the church year" project. This mass would occur only during a year when Easter falls on or before March 26. Its Epistle is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and its Gospel is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Matthew 25:1-13. The tune is FIVE THOUSAND, which I wrote in 2008 for this hymn. I hope the hymn below may serve as an antidote to the knee-jerk proclamation of a moralistic or decisionistic preparation for Jesus's coming, which seems to me a hideous misapplication of this Gospel. Jesus' point of comparison isn't the oil that the virgins have to bring or buy, as in works or spiritual movements that we ourselves must supply. It is simply about being ready for Jesus to come at any time and not becoming discouraged even if we fall asleep before He comes. Paul's comments in the Epistle are so much to the purpose that the pairing of the two texts seems, as it were, inspired.
To five wise and five foolish maids,
Keep us alert as daylight fades
Until Your banquet is prepared!
Grant us, while time remains in grace,
The ready oil but You provide
To fuel our faith, until Your bride
Beholds the glory of Your face!
Grant us the word that heralds peace,
The washing of the second birth,
Bread broken once for all the earth,
The keys that from sin’s bond release!
Grant thus that when Your trumpets sound
And You pass in and close the gate,
We may not light our lamps too late
But in full readiness be found!
Nor let us slumber nor grow drunk
Nor falsely think ourselves secure;
But help us patiently endure
This age till its last light is sunk!
For we are fated not for wrath
But to be saved through You, O Christ,
Who for us all were sacrificed,
Our life the purpose of Your death.
From this such comfort we shall take
That, bearing trouble, fear and loss
With eyes lit by Your holy cross,
We watch with full hearts and awake.
Come soon, dear Lord, with sweet surprise;
And if perhaps our bodies drowse,
Fill them with life, our souls arouse,
And draw us onward with the wise!