The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Gospel According To Matthew

Chapter 25, Verses 1-13

King James Version

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

25:3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

25:4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

25:5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

25:6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

25:7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

25:9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

25:10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

25:11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

25:12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Source: Project Gutenberg, URL: Site last accessed on July 23, 2006.

Editor's Note:

Methodius (d. ca. 312), "The Bridegroom Cometh"

Methodius, the martyr, who is also called Eubulius, the antagonist of Origen, is the author of "Symposium (or Banquet) of Ten Virgins" (Συμπόσιον τών δέκα παρθένων), an eloquent but verbose and extravagant eulogy on the blessings and advantages of voluntary virginity, which he describes as "something supernaturally great, wonderful, and glorious," and as "the best and noblest manner of life."

"The conception of the Symposium," says Schaff, "and the dialogue are borrowed from Plato, who celebrated the praises of Eros, as Methodius the praises of virginity. Methodius begins with a brief dialogue between Eubulios or Eubulion (that is, himself) and the virgin Gregorion, who was present at a banquet of the ten virgins in the gardens of Arete (that is, personified virtue) and reports to him ten discourses which these virgins successively delivered in praise of chastity. At the end of the banquet the victorious Thecla, chief of the virgins (Saint Paul's apocryphal companion), standing on the right hand of Arete, begins to sing a hymn of chastity to which the virgins respond with the oft-repeated refrain:

I keep myself pure for thee, O Bridegroom,
And holding a lighted torch I go to meet thee”

"Then follows a concluding dialogue between Eubulios and Gregorion on the question whether chastity ignorant of lust is preferable to chastity which feels the power of passion and overcomes it; in other words, whether a wrestler who has no opponents is better than a wrestler who has many and strong antagonists and continually contends against them without being worsted. Both agree in giving the palm to the latter, and then they betake themselves to 'the care of the outward man,' expecting to resume the delicate discussion on the next day.

"The taste and morality of virgins discussing at great length the merits of sexual purity are very questionable, at least from the standpoint of modem civilization; but the enthusiastic praise of chastity to the extent of total abstinence was in full accord with the prevailing asceticism of the fathers, including Origen, who freed himself from carnal temptation by an act of violence against nature."

The "Parthenion" of Methodius, which commences, Ανωδεν, παρθένοί, is, like Psalm 119, acrostic; the initial letters of the strophes are the letters of the alphabet in their order. Each strophe is followed by the same refrain (ύπακοή).

The hymn has been translated into English for the "Ante-Nicene Library," vol. xiv [pp. 111-115, edition of 1869; see: The Banquet of the Ten Virgins]; we subjoin, however, Chatfield's translation....

Source: Bernard Pick, Hymns and Poetry of the Eastern Church (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1908), pp. 25-27.

Mr. Pick was quoting Philip Schaff, ed., History of the Christian Church, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, Volume II of II. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1889), Section 193, Opponents of Origen: Methodius, pp. 809-812. Note: Use great care in selecting volumes of this series as the same text can appear in different volumes and on different pages depending on the date of publication.

The note concerning Origen's "act against nature" involved self-castration following the "too literal and extreme a sense" of Matthew 19:12. Source: Eusebius, Church History [Also cited as Historia Ecclesiastica], Volume VI, Chapter 8, Trans. Arthur Cushman Mcgiffert, from Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume 1 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904), p. 254.

Matthew 19:12 (NIV; Used with permission): "For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others--and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

This Parable has inspired a very large number of hymns, including some hymns that date back many centuries. Two ancient manuscripts are also represented among this group:

  • Benjamin Hall Kennedy, ed., Hymnologia Christiana, Or, Psalms and Hymns Selected and Arranged (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1863), #1008. , pp. 259-260, and

  • Lord Horatio Nelson, et al., The Sarum Hymnal (Salisbury: Brown and Co., and W P. Aylward; London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1868), #24, p. 32.

3. Wake, Arise! The Call Obeying. A good translation by A. T. Russell, as No. 110 in the Dalston Hospital Hymn Book 1848. [Note that the "Dalston Hospital Hymn Book" is properly titled: Hymns for Public Worship and Private Devotion, For the Benefit of the London German Hospital, Dalston (London: J. Hatchard and Son, 1848).]

4. Wake, Oh Wake; Around Are Flying. This is a recast, by A. T. Russell, not for the better, from his 1848 translation, as No. 268 in his Psalms & Hymns. 1851, stanza 3 being omitted. Thence, unaltered, in the New Zealand Hymnal, 1872.

5. Wake, Awake, The Night Is Flying. A very good translation by Miss Catherine Winkworth, in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858, p. 225, repeated in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, No. 200, with stanza 2, lines 7, 8, rewritten. Included in the English Presbyterian Psalms & Hymns, 1867; Scottish Presbyterian Hymnal, 1876, &c.; and in America, in Laudes Domini, 1884, and others. In the Cantate Domino, Boston, U. S., 1859, it begins "Awake, awake, for night is flying."

6. Wake! The Startling Watch-Cry Pealeth. By Miss Frances Elizabeth Cox, in Lyra Messianica, 1864, p. 4, and her Hymns from the German, 1864, p. 27; repeated in W. F. Stevenson's Hymns for Church and Home, 1873.

    The version in J. L. Porter's Collection, 1876, takes stanza 2, Lines 1-4 from Miss Cox. The rest is mainly from R. C. Singleton's translation in the Anglican Hymn Book, but borrows lines also from Miss Winkworth, and from the Hymnary text.

7. Wake! The Watchman's Voice Is Sounding. By R. C. Singleton. This is No. 259 in the Anglican Hymn Book, 1868, where it is marked as a "versification by R. C. Singleton, 1867."

8. Wake, Awake, For Night Is Flying. This is by Canon W. Cooke, in the Hymnary, 1871, and signed A. C. C. In the edition of 1872, lines 7, 8 of stanza 2 are recast, and the whole is marked as "based on E. A. Dayman." It is really a cento, four lines of the 1872 text (stanza 1, line 5; stanza 2, lines 7, 8; stanza 3, line 9) being by Canon Cooke; and the rest being adapted from the versions of P. Pusey as altered in the Sarum Hymnal, of Miss Winkworth, of Miss Cox, and of R. C. Singleton. It may be regarded as a success, and as passed into the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns, 1871; the 1874 Appendix to the New Congregational Hymn Book; Horder's Congregational Hymns, 1884, and others.

9.  Wake, Arise! The Voice Is Calling. This is an anonymous translation in the Ohio Lutheran Hymnal, 1880. [Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal. (Columbus Ohio: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1880), #462, pp. 412-413.]

10. Slumberers, Wake, The Bridegroom Cometh!, The Rev. J. H. Hopkins (1820-1891). A spirited version, based on Miss Winkworth (and with an original stanza as 4.), by J. H. Hopkins in his Carols, Hymns & Songs, 3rd ed., 1882. p. 88, and dated 1866. Repeated in the Hymnal Companion (Reformed Episcopal) Philadelphia, U.S., 1885.

Translations of "Wachet auf" not in Common Use are:—

(1) “Awake, The Voice Is Crying." In John Baptist Walsh, ed., Lyra Davidica (London: Walsh, et al., 1708), pp. 73-74.

(2) Awake! Awake! The Watchman Calls By Miss Henrietta Joan Fry, Hymns of the Reformation (London: Charles Gilpin, 1845), pp. 33-36.

(3) "Hark! the trump of God is sounding." By Dr. Henry Mills, 1845 (1856, p. 269). This is from the altered form by F. G. Klopstock, in his Geistliche Lieder, 1758, p. 246, as further altered in Zollikofer's Gesang-Buch, 1766, No. 303, where it begins "Wachet auf! so ruft."

Editor's Note: This hymn contains no references to the Bridegroom or any of the other themes that we've seen in other translations. The heading is "Resurrection of the Saints," and it deals with the Second Coming, but does not seem to have anything to do with Nicoli's "Wachet auf." As it envisions the Second Advent, it is properly on this website, just not here. So that you can make up your own mind, here it is: Hark! The Trump Of God Is Sounding.

(4) "Awake, arise, the voice gives warning." In the United Presbyterian Juvenile Missionary Magazine, 1857, p. 193; repeated in 1859, p. 171, beginning, “Awake, arise, it is the warning."

(5) “Waken! From The Tower It Soundeth" By Mrs. Francis A. Bevan, Songs of Eternal Life (1858), p. 1.

(6) Up! Awake! His Summons Hurried. By James D. Burns, in The Family Treasury, 1860, p. 84, and his Memoir & Remains, 1869, p. 234.

Additional Translations of "Wachet auf":

  1. Sleepers, Wake! A Voice Astounds Us, Carl P. Daw, Jr. (1944-)

  2. Up! Awake! From Highest Steeple, George Ratcliffe Woodward (early 1900s)

  3. Wake, O Wake! With Tidings Thrilling, Francis Crawford Burkitt (1906)

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