Day Eight – December 6, 2023 – Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Maiden of the Beatitudes

The Eighth Beatitude: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:10)

Our preparation for the Feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is ending. Today is the penultimate day of our novena. And just as it is ending, another preparation is beginning.

Advent is here preparing us for Christmas. As our liturgies don the purple of preparation, around us homes and hearths are donning their reds and greens. As our churches resound with “O come, o come Emmanuel”, our radios and playlists blast “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls”.

But besides the festive songs about bells and halls there’s another tune that tends to top Christmas playlists: The Twelve Days of Christmas. This song dates back to the 16th century. It is an English Christmas carol with a catechetical purpose. Catholic author Ann Ball describes it as a sacrament of sorts.[1] She notes that during the time of Catholic persecution in England, it was used as an instrument of evangelization, using lively images to communicate the great spiritual truths of our Catholic faith.

The connection between this song and our novena is the number eight. Twelve Days of Christmas sings that the lover’s gift “on the eighth day of Christmas” was “eight maids a milking”. These eight maids represent the inspiration behind our novena: the eight beatitudes. And today, as we come to the eighth and final beatitude, we can turn our contemplative eyes towards the real eighth day of Christmas.

Eight days after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was time for him to be “born again”. Born of Hebrew blood, He was not yet a true Israelite. To become a true child of Israel he had to be circumcised. He made to be given the mark of belonging. And so, on the eighth day He was carried to his circumcision (cf. Lk 2:21).

Jesus’ first shedding of blood

As Bishop Fulton Sheen notes, Jesus’ circumcision was His first shedding of blood. He writes,

A Child only eight days old was already beginning the blood shedding that would fulfill His perfect manhood. [2]

Long before He would pour out His Blood on Calvary, Jesus was already shedding it in Bethlehem. The cradle is already a foreshadowing of the Cross. Or as Fulton Sheen poetically put it,

As the East catches at sunset the colors of the West, so does the Circumcision reflect Calvary.

Mary’s first sharing in His suffering

But Jesus was not alone. A woman stood by the cradle and the cross watching the sunrise and sunset of persecution. That woman was Mary. She was present at both the Circumcision and at Calvary. And her presence gives us an insight into today’s beatitude.

The eighth beatitude is a uniquely conditional beatitude. I say uniquely conditional, because according to their grammatical analysis all of the beatitudes could be called “zero conditional statements”. Their outcomes are not probable, but facts. If you are poor in spirit you will be blessed with heaven as your inheritance; if you are pure in heart you will be blessed with the vision of God, etc. But when it comes to the eighth beatitude there is an extra condition added. Jesus does not say, If you are persecuted you will belong to the kingdom of heaven, but rather if you are persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Mt. 5:10)—and even more explicitly because of me (cf. Mt 5:11)—then you will be blessed.

Mary is blessed as the woman of the eighth beatitude because her whole life was lived in relation to God. In the words of St. Louis de Montfort, she is all relative to God. Everything about her points us to Him.

Mary is altogether relative to God; and, indeed, I might well call her the relation to God. She only exists with reference to God. She is the echo of God, who says nothing, repeats nothing, but God.[3]

Beginning with Jesus’ circumcision we see that even Mary’s suffering is endured for Him. She “is ready to suffer all things for Christ.”[4] No blade need touch her skin to feel its prick. In watching her Son suffer, she suffers with Him. She joins her heart to His body. As her suffering is blessed by its relation to Christ, so she teaches us by her example that persecution is also blessed in relation to Christ.

I repeat, today’s beatitude and Mary’s example teach us that persecution alone is not blessed. What is blessed is the persecution, humiliation, and insult suffered in the name of righteousness and truth. All victimhood is not the same. Only persecution in the name of Jesus opens the doors to the kingdom of heaven. And here we find another connection to the historical eighth day of Christmas. It was on the eighth day, precisely after being circumcised, that the Divine Child was given His name, Jesus, “God saves”.

See and hear for yourself

I could try to say more about this mystery, but I won’t. I want you to cherish it and reap its fruit from your own contemplation.

See Jesus in the arms of Mary. The Suffering Servant in the arms of a Soon-to-be-Mother of Sorrows.

Watch the “sign of contradiction” being incorporated into His People Israel through the first shedding of His Blood. The Sinless One marked a “sinner”. And all of this happens below the gaze of Mary. She cannot stop it, she can only welcome it and spiritually share in its pain for the sake of righteousness.

Listen to the first public utterance of the name “Jesus”. It is the inauguration of centuries of persecutions. But at the same time, this scene reveals the power of that name. It is the spark that ignites a raging fire of Christian love. For centuries upon centuries of persecution will not be able to snuff it out. And she who stands close to this fire is Mary. Like a hearth, Mary guards it and channels it. She guards the love of Jesus in the hearts of all those who suffer persecution, and she channels to them the grace of perseverance.

In conclusion, we can say that it is not far from the truth to sing of maidens on the eighth day of Christmas. As long as the maidens representing the beatitudes give due honor to the maiden “high beyond all other”, Mary, the Maiden of the Beatitudes.

Maiden yet a mother,
daughter of thy Son,
high beyond all other,
lowlier is none;
thou the consummation
planned by God’s decree,
when our lost creation
nobler rose in thee![5]

Seize the day and make it all Hers!


Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE



[2] Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ, Word on Fire Classics (Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire, 2019), 29.

[3] St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion, 225.

[4] Hilary, Catena Aurea, Lectio 8, Mt 5:10.

[5] Dante Alighieri, Canto 33, translated by Fr. Ronald Knox.