Eight Maids a-Milking
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11
The eight maids represent the eight beatitudes from the sermon on the mount. There is some dispute as to whether there are eight or nine beatitudes. In Matthew 5:3-10 Jesus says that blessed are: 1) the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. These are the traditional eight beatitudes and are affirmed in the Catholic catechism. But then there is verse 11 quoted above. This has traditionally not been included in the list. It appears to be a summary of what one can expect if we try to live the blessed life described in the eight beatitudes.
We continue to see the emphasis upon the food for the Christmas feast, especially foods that are not common and are reserved for special occasions. Until the advent of refrigeration, milk was not a common drink because it spoiled quickly. To receive the gift of fresh milk is to be granted a heavenly gift.
This is the very reason this image was chosen for the beatitudes. We are to feed on the milk of the word. St. Peter says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2) We are to strive to live life in accord with the beatitudes–a blessed life. In order to do that we must “crave the pure spiritual milk.”