On the eighth day of Christmas...
"... and he began to teach them, saying 'Blessed are...'" Matthew 5. 2-3
Yes, it's towards the 8 Beatitudes with which Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount that those 8 maids a-milking are directing us. "Beatitude" is not an everyday word but it is a word which is rich in meaning. Derived from the Latin "beatus", it conveys the idea of "being supremely blessed". Into our minds may pop the likes of celebrities, sports personalities, movie stars and the mega-rich. But none of these features on Jesus' list. As if confirmation were needed of the alternative vision Jesus had for society in his day, which continues to jar with society as we know it today, the list which he enumerates consists instead of a line-up which would not be considered impressive or attractive in either his or our day:
The poor in spirit (ie those who appreciate their need of God), mourners, the meek, the pious, the merciful, those with integrity, peacemakers, martyrs - especially martyrs.
And what renders them blessed or, to put it another way, what is their inheritance?
Heaven, comfort, everything worthwhile, fulfilment, mercy, intimacy with God, eternal blessing.
And we know from the wider context of Jesus' teaching that he not singling out the super-spiritual. Jesus is describing the reward which accrues to every sincere believer, who is willing to renounce the false promises of worldly success and follow him into a life of devotion to God and preference of others' over one's own desires. None of this is easy and it rarely comes naturally. But we are also promised the greatest gifts of all to equip us: the Holy Spirit. If there is one New Year resolution worthy of the name, let it be our willingness to receive everything which God would lavish upon us...