Descriptive term for a short parable recorded by the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). It was spoken probably on the occasion of the banquet given by Saint Matthew to Christ and His disciples along with many sinners and publicans, after his call to the Apostleship.
The parable was provoked by the question of the disciples of John the Baptist and some of the scribes and Pharisees asking “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples do not fast?” Jesus replies in a similitude, asking if the companions of the bridal-chamber, whose special task it was to provide for the merrymaking at the feast, could be expected at the same time to mourn and fast. But, Christ adds, the days shall come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from these wedding guests and then they shall fast.
The meaning of the parable was quite intelligible to His hearers. The disciples of the Baptist are reminded that their master had referred to Christ as the Bridegroom, and all the questioners are taught that the time of the visible presence of Jesus among His disciples should be for them a time of rejoicing and not of mourning and fasting; but when His visible presence is withdrawn, then they shall lament and be made sorrowful and then fasting and mourning shall be consistently their portion. The Fathers of the Church interpret the image of the bridegroom and bride as referring to Christ and His Church. Some explain it tropologically: as long as the Spouse is with us we are not able to mourn; but when by sin He departs then is the time for tears and fasting. Yet others apply the words of Christ to the Holy Eucharist. The parable does not condemn the strictness of John nor does it condemn fasting. The disciples of Christ kept the fasts prescribed by the Law but they did ignore those imposed by the Pharisees. This parable does stand against the spirit of the Pharisees who esteemed too highly external works and it shows to all that a new time had come and another spirit reigned in the Kingdom. It is held up as a splendid lesson on how to argue and how to convince.
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
- Matthew 9:14-15, Revised Standard Version
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”
- Mark 2:18-20, Revised Standard Version
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”
And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”
- Luke 5:33-35, Revised Standard Version