According to Margaret R Miles in her informative article “God’s Love, Mother’s Milk,” we are presented with a very human theme: “the Virgin Mary with one breast exposed a she is nursing or preparing to nurse the infant Christ…the Virgin’s breast was a symbol of God’s loving provision of life, the nourishment and care that sustain life, and the salvation that promises eternal life.” In this season of the Nativity, the event of the Incarnation, these become eminent themes for reflection both in our worldly ministries and in our own spiritualities.
The Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Infant Jesus (click here for a second Breastfeeding in Art video clip) has been a popular theme in religious art through the centuries; it has become spiritual art in that it turns away from the traditional European depictions of mother and child and represents more contemporary aspects, thus becoming spiritual art instead of tasteless-funeral-parlor-church-calendar-junk art. Here are just a few examples:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her,
all you who were mourning over her!
Oh, that you may suck fully
of the milk of her comfort,
that you may nurse with delight
at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.When you see this, your heart shall rejoice
and your bodies flourish like the grass;
the LORD’s power shall be known to his servants,
but to his enemies, his wrath