On the Great and Holy Tuesday, we recall the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In His progress to His saving passions, Christ narrated parables such as this to His disciples, and some also to the Jews. In the parable, ten virgins were invited to a wedding procession with lamps. Five took a sufficient supply of oil to keep the lamps alight while they waited for the groom, but the other five did not. None knew the date or time of his coming. On the night when the he came, the lamps of the five injudicious women went out, and they went away to get more oil. The lamps of the other five continued burning, and they followed the bride, to the feast, closing the door behind them.
"The greatest of Tuesdays brings with it the ten virgins, who bring the victory of the impartial Master," reads the opening verse of the Synaxarion. Ahead of His passions, Christ calls on all those who will listen to repentance, mercy and vigilance. He cautions us not to liken ourselves to the five unwise virgins whose lamps faded when the Bridegroom Christ came: "keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matthew 25: 13). In our churches, we hear for the second day in a row the hymn "Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight".
The hymns of this day liken Christ's imminent death on the Cross to the end of time. To become partakers of the first and meet the second without despair, we must, as the hymns implore us, "cast aside slothfulness and go to meet Christ, the immortal Bridegroom, with brightly shining lamps."
The Synaxarion of the Great and Holy Tuesday explains the meaning of this day as follows: "The God-bearing fathers assigned the foregoing parable of the ten virgins to be read at this point in Great Week, for it teaches us always to be vigilant and ready to meet the true Bridegroom through good deeds, and especially almsgiving since the day and hour of our end is uncertain. Likewise, through the story of Joseph we are taught to strive for chastity and through that of the fig tree to bring spiritual fruit."