“Take time by the forelock” is a phrase that means ‘to act quickly and decisively” and “not let slip an opportunity”
( “Forelock” is the strand or cluster of hair, growing just above the forehead)
This phrase has an interesting origin…
A statue chiselled by Lysippus (one of the greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek Era in the 4th century BC) stood in one of the cities in Ancient Greece.
… had wings
… a lock of hair on the forehead
… and was bald at the back of the head
Underneath this statue, was engraved the following conversation, in a question-answer format…
“Who made thee?”
“Lysippus made me.”
“What is thy name?”
“My name is Opportunity.”
“Why hast thou wings on thy feet?”
“That I may fly swiftly over the earth.”
“Why hast thou a forelock?”
“That men may seize me as I come.”
“Why art thou bald on the back of thy head?’—
“Because, when I am gone, none can lay hold of me.”
“Opportunity is like this bald-headed man with only a patch of hair right in front.
One has to grab that hair, grasp the opportunity while it’s being confronted…
… else, one will be grasping a slick bald head!”
Is my Christian Life characterised by an enthusiastic response to the many opportunities for blessings that God offers me…?
.. or do I ‘doze off’ in lethargy and laziness, letting away many wonderful opportunities and squandering many chances of God’s abundant favours?
The Gospel of the Day presents the Parable of the Ten Virgins, with a strong warning to “make use of every opportunity that life offers” and “to be ever-prepared” in receiving the coming of the Lord.
The parable of the Ten Virgins has its setting in a Jewish Wedding.
In the time of our Blessed Lord, the wedding was probably one of the greatest events in a typical Palestinian village or an Israeli town.
This was a time of great social celebration!
All got together…
… friends, relatives, villagers..
It was a time of great festivity, abounding happiness and overflowing celebrations.
A Jewish marriage consisted of three parts or elements:
>> It was sort of an official contract between the two fathers, who would be giving their son and daughter to each other.
>> This second element consisted of the friends and family members coming together and the couple making vows and promises that were binding.
This phase onwards, they would be officially considered as husband and wife.
>> The time after Betrothal lasted up to a year, which was for the bridegroom to prepare a place for his bride – either an addition to his father’s house or to have his own
It was to be his concrete expression of showing his love to her – preparing a home for her and preparing his heart and life for her!
At the end of the time that he needed to get it prepared, he would go to take her and bring her to his place – and they would thereafter, live together.
This third phase, therefore was the fulfilment of the eager longing of the bridegroom and bride, in being together for the rest of their life!
The Wedding set-up that is mentioned in today’s Gospel is this scene of the third phase of the wedding.
This is the climax of the wedding festivity where the bridegroom goes to get his bride.
This was done in a grand procession through the village, so that all in the village could be part of this festivity.
The Ten Ten Virgins (or bridesmaids) who are mentioned in the Gospel Passage, had the role of performing one of the acts of entertainment.
>> They would have to perform a wedding dance – “torch dance” around the bride and the groom, holding torches.
It would symbolize the light of their love, wishing them a luminous future.
Then the wedding party would go into the house, and the celebration would last for seven long days!
In the parable, it is mentioned that “since the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Mt 25: 5)
It was only when the call that the Bridegroom had arrived was given, that Five of the Virgins realised, that “they brought no oil with them” (Mt 25: 3)
It’s so ironical that the wedding which was such a well-prepared and a long-awaited event, had these five virgins who were so unprepared and so unequipped for the grand moment!
The story of these five virgins who were unprepared (whom our Blessed Lord calls as ‘foolish”) could well be our own stories too..
How often are we too unprepared and unequipped….. missing out on opportunities….
… The Lord gives ample opportunities to get back our life on track, through various Biblical inspirations, talks,retreats, literatures etc.
… There are so many occasions that are provided for us to grow in our virtues, to learn deeper the mysteries of heaven and to illumine ourselves with holy knowledge
… We also get so many chances to build our relationship with one another, to grow in appreciation and praise of other and to discover and nurture the goodness in others
Do we make good use of all such opportunities or do we squander them away?
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Augustine, the great Doctor of the Church.
It can happen that many of us may enter into a mode of “delaying God’s power” and “denying God’s Grace” just as Augustine in his early days who would say, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet!”
But his life is also a reminder, that if we allow God’s power to work in us – in openness to the Spirit of God – He can mould us and shape us, into His mighty and powerful instruments!
May this Great Doctor of the Church who said:
“What does love look like?
> It has the hands to help others.
> It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
> It has eyes to see misery and want.
> It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”…
… intercede for us, to make use of every opportunity to grow in God’s Love and to be truly prepared to welcome the coming of the Lord!
May we always keep ready “our lamps” to shine bright for the Lord with the “oil of gladness and love”!
God Bless! Live Jesus!