In the ancient middle east there was a custom for several young chaste women to be set to watch for the Bridegroom to return to the festivities. The bridegroom had to go and negotiate with the father, prepare the dowry and then come back to the party. The women were to wait for him to light his way. If they didn't show up, or their lamps weren't lit it would bring disgrace not just on her, but she also wouldn't be allowed to participate in the festivities.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
In the season of Advent we are reminded that we are invited to the wedding, not just as guests and witnesses, but as part of the party! We have a job to do. We are to be prepared to do our job. Just like the young virgins with their lamps, we are supposed to do the tasks set to us by the Gospel and by our Vocation, so that when the Bridegroom comes we will be waiting. Just like the virgins we do not know the hour when the place He is preparing for us will be finished, so we must be ready at any moment to jump up and welcome the Bridegroom. After all, we don't want to be late for the party; in this case he shows us the door will be shut and will not be opened.
So keep your faith strong. Grow in your relationship with Christ, and with your community of fellow believers. Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, body, mind and soul! Love your neighbor as yourself. Fill your lamps with love and faith, and 'get ready, be ready, stay ready!' Remember, you cannot count on someone else's faith to fill your lamp. The wise virgins couldn't fill the lamp for the others. We have to work out our salvation, it is up to us to fill the lamp!