Last year, PETA turned heads with the above billboard. People could not believe PETA would do such a thing to the sacred relationship between Mother Mary and Jesus. As if to conclude, they doctored a painting and bared Mother Mary’s breast.
What? Our world doesn’t like to see breast? I must be living on a different planet because I unfortunately see breast everywhere I go. And they aren’t breastfeeding breast. Women who want to hang their breast out and do as they wish, you can find them anywhere. But women who breastfeed, yuck. People just can’t accept it for what it is-natural.
So it only makes sense that people weren’t accustom to seeing Mother Mary nursing baby Jesus. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, our new pastor, had the below painting on the cover of our bulletin.
Our pastor scored a lot of points with me. Although I’m wondering, how many people complained about the selection?
Since then, I have been on a quest to find more paintings of Mother Mary nursing Jesus. As it turns out, there are lots and lots of beautiful paintings depicting this natural relationship between a mother and child. The interesting thing is nearly all of the paintings were done before the Protestant Reformation. Around that time, artist stopped painting this special relationship between mother and son and all the existing paintings were hidden. Although the Vatican, is trying to bring the paintings back in view of the public. Unfortunate for us, breast are so taboo in this country that we won’t be seeing any paintings any time soon.
So without further ado, I bring you…Mother Mary nursing Jesus with my gentle commentary.
One of the earliest depictions, painted in the Priscilla Catacombs, ca. A.D. 250
I love this painting and how the red garment really pops out and makes this painting feel so alive.
Van Eyck, A.D. 1436
I can honestly say, I am thankful my children never nursed like this. I call this painting, “The Bad Latch.”
Memling, ca. A.D. 1487
My dad recently heard a story in the news where a woman sprayed breast milk in a police officer’s eyes and they arrested the woman for ‘using a weapon.’ My dad asked if that was possible to ‘spray’ milk like that. I will have to show him these paintings. I call this, “Don’t Mess with Mary,” or “Armed with a Weapon.”
“The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard.” This painting depicts the legendary mystical experience: Bernard prayed before a statue of the Madonna, asking her, “Show yourself a mother.” The statue came to life and squirted milk from the breast onto his lips. Artist: Alonso Cano, A.D. 1650
Artist: Unknown Master, Netherlandish, 1480-85
By far, my favorite breastfeeding painting. I would hang this in my living room, no doubt. The way Mother Mary looks at Jesus is the same way that all mothers look at their sweet little one. With complete love and wonder. Looking at Mother Mary, you can almost read her mind and hear her say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you God for this precious baby.” The same words that trail through my mind so many times when I nurse.
da Vinci, ca. A.D. 1500
I like this painting for the simple fact that Jesus is playing with His toes while he nurses. A very common and normal thing for a child to do while nursing. Could Jesus be portrayed any more human than this?
Solario, A.D. 1500
Up until a month ago, my daughter would nurse with one hand in front and the other against my back. But now she likes to put both arms out front and play with a toy, blanket, my shirt, anything. And in Jesus’ case, He wants to play with a piece of fruit. Wow! He was just like a normal nursing toddler!
Cleve, ca. A.D. 1512/13
I like to call this painting, “Don’t you dare.” As you can see in Mother Mary’s eyes, she can tell Jesus is up to no good. He either is about to bite her or have a bad latch.
Cleve, ca. A.D. 1512
Jesus just fell asleep nursing and Mother Mary had to do the ‘pop your finger in’ trick to release his suction. This action is done daily in my house.
Cleve, ca. A.D. 1520
I call this “Distracted Toddler.” I love this because it shows a playful side of Jesus.
Coreggio, ca. A.D. 1520
One word: heavenly. I would hang this painting up in a heartbeat! Simply beautiful. This is the same painting that was on the cover of my church’s bulletin for the feast day of the Immaculate Conception.
Reni, Guido, A.D. 1575-1642
The Holy Family! I love, love, love this painting. It looks like this painting is supposed to be depicting the Nativity and maybe, just maybe, Jesus first nursing session? The way Mother Mary is looking at Him could make me cry. I’ve felt that feeling of new, pure, innocent love. And Joseph, oh, Joseph, you man of God. How awesome are you? Being there at her side, and admiring, the gift that God has trusted you with. What an awesome, awesome, painting.
Zubaran, A.D. 1659
If our culture could see how natural breastfeeding is, so natural that Mother Mary even did it, wouldn’t we live in a better, less sexual culture?