Parable of the Wedding Feast Icon, Modern

Translation From the Holy Gospel According to Matthew

At that time, Jesus spoke to the chief priests and the Pharisees in parables, saying: The kingdom of Heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son; and he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage, and they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited: Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come ye to the marriage. But they neglected and went their way, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise; and the rest laid their hands on his servants, and having treated them abusively, put them to death. But when the king heard of it, he was angry and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready, but they that were invited were not worthy, Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage. And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good and the marriage was filled with guests. And the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment: and he saith to him: Friend, how came thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.

A Message From St. Augustine’s Sermon 90.

The Cock Fight, Arthur Melville, 1900

What is that wedding garment then? This is the wedding garment: Now the end of the commandment, says the Apostle Paul, charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. This is the wedding garment. Not charity of any kind whatever; for very often they who are partakers together of an evil conscience seem to love one another. They who commit robberies together, who love the hurtful arts of sorceries, and the stage together, who join together in the shout of the chariot race, or the wild beast fight; these very often love one another; but in these, there is no charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. The wedding garment is such charity as this. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal. Tongues have come in alone, and it is said to them, How came ye in hither not having a wedding garment? Though, said he, I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. See, these are the miracles of men who very often have not the wedding garment. Though, he says, I have all these, and have not Christ, I am nothing. Is then the gift of prophecy nothing? is then the knowledge of mysteries nothing? It is not that these are nothing; but if I have them, and have not charity, I am nothing. How many good things profit nothing without this one good thing! If then I have not charity, though I bestow alms freely upon the poor, though I have come to the confession of Christ’s Name even unto blood and fire, these things may be done even through the love of glory, and so are vain. Because then they may be done even from the love of glory, and so be vain, and not through the rich charity of a godly affection, he names them all also in express terms, and do thou give ear to them; though I distribute all my goods for the use of the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. This then is the wedding garment. Question yourselves; if ye have it, ye may be without fear in the Feast of the Lord. In one and the same man there exist two things, charity and desire. Let charity be born in thee, if it be yet unborn, and if it be born, be it nourished, fostered, increased. But as to that desire, though in this life it cannot be utterly extinguished; for if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but in so far as desire is in us, so far we are not without sin: let charity increase, desire decrease; that the one, that is, charity, may one day be perfected, and desire be consumed. Put on the wedding garment: you I address, who as yet have it not. Ye are already within, already do ye approach to the Feast, and still have ye not yet the garment to do honour to the Bridegroom; Ye are yet seeking your own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. For the wedding garment is taken in honour of the union, the union, that is, of the Bridegroom to the Bride. Ye know the Bridegroom; it is Christ. Ye know the Bride; it is the Church. Pay honour to the Bride, pay honour to the Bridegroom. If ye pay due honour to them both, ye will be their children. Therefore in this make progress. Love the Lord, and so learn to love yourselves; that when by loving the Lord ye shall have loved yourselves, ye may securely love your neighbour as yourselves. For when I find a man that does not love himself, how shall I commit his neighbour whom he should love as himself to him? And who is there, you will say, who does not love himself? Who is there? See, He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul. Does he love himself, who loves his body, and hates his soul to his own hurt, to the hurt of both his body and soul? And who loves his own soul? He that loveth God with all his heart and with all his mind. To such an one I would at once entrust his neighbour. Love your neighbour as yourselves...

So then, my Brethren, have charity… Distinguish well the nature of faith; and then in thee is recognised the wedding garment. Let the Apostle make the distinction, let him teach us; neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith. Tell us, what faith? do not even the devils believe and tremble? I will tell thee, the Apostle Paul says, and listen, I will now draw the distinction,But faith which worketh by love. What faith, then, and of what kind? That which worketh by love. Though I have all knowledge, he says, and all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Have faith with love; for love without faith ye cannot have. This I warn, this I exhort, this in the name of the Lord I teach you, Beloved, that ye have faith with love; for ye may possibly have faith without love. I do not exhort you to have faith, but love. For ye cannot have love without faith; the love I mean of God and your neighbour; whence can it come without faith? How doth he love God, who doth not believe on God? How doth the fool love God, who saith in his heart, there is no God? Possible it is that ye may believe that Christ hath come and not love Christ. But it is not possible that ye should love Christ, and yet say that Christ hath not come.

So then, have faith with love. This is the wedding garment. Ye who love Christ, love one another, love your friends, love your enemies. Let not this be hard to you. What then do ye lose thereby, when ye gain so much? What? dost thou ask of God as some great favour, that thine enemy may die? This is not the wedding garment. Turn thy thoughts to the Bridegroom Himself hanging upon the Cross for thee, and praying to His Father for His enemies; Father, saith He, forgive them, for they know not what they do. … as thou art about to approach the Table of the Lord, the Feast of the Holy Scriptures, do not say, O that mine enemymight die! Lord, if I have deserved ought of Thee, slay mine enemy. Because if so be that thou sayest so, dost thou not fear lest He should answer thee, “If I should choose to slay thine enemy, I should first slay thee. What! dost thou glory because thou hast now come invited hither? Think only what thou wast but a little while ago. Hast thou not blasphemed Me? hast thou not derided Me? didst thou not wish to wipe out My Name from off the earth? Yet now thou dost applaud thyself because thou hast come invited hither! If I had slain thee when thou wast Mine enemy, how could I have made thee My friend? Why, by thy wicked prayers dost thou teach Me to do, what I did not in thine own case?” Yea rather God saith to thee, “Let me teach thee to imitate Me. When I was hanging on the Cross, I said, Forgive them, for they know not what they do. This lesson I taught My brave soldier. Be thou My recruit against the devil. In no other way wilt thou fight at all unconquerably, unless thou dost pray for thine enemies. Yet by all means ask this, yea ask this very thing, ask that thou mayest persecute thine enemy; but ask it with discernment; distinguish well what thou askest. See, a man is thine enemy; answer me, what is it in him which is at enmity with thee? Is it in this, that he is a man, that he is at enmity with thee? No. What then? That he is evil. In that he is a man, in that he is that I made him, he is not at enmity with thee.” He saith to thee, “I did not make man evil; he became evil by disobedience, who obeyed the devil rather than God. What he has made himself, is at enmity with thee; in that he is evil, he is thine enemy; not in that he is a man. For I hear the word “man,” and “evil;” the one is the name of nature the other of sin; the sin I cure; and the nature I preserve.” And so thy God saith to thee, “See, I do avenge thee, I do slay thine enemy; I take away that which makes him evil, I preserve that which constitutes him a man: now if I shall have made him a good man, have I not slain thine enemy, and made him thy friend?” So ask on what thou art asking, not that the men may perish, but that these their enmities may perish. For if thou pray for this, that the man may die; it is the prayer of one wicked man against another; and when thou dost say, “Slay the wicked one,” God answereth thee, “Which of you?”

Christ the Bridegroom Icon

Extend your love then, and limit it not to your wives and children. Such love is found even in beasts and sparrows… But I say, extend your love, let this love grow; for to love wives and children, is not yet that wedding garment. Have faith toward God. First love God. Extend yourselves out to God; and whomsoever ye shall be able, draw on to God. There is thine enemy: let him be drawn to God. There is a son, a wife, a servant; let them be all drawn to God. There is a stranger; let him be drawn to God. There is an enemy; let him be drawn to God. Draw, draw on thine enemy; by drawing him on he shall cease to be thine enemy. So let charity be advanced, so be it nourished, that being nourished it may be perfected; so be the wedding garment put on; so be the image of God, after which we were created, by this our advancing, engraven anew in us.