Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Maria Lactans:
Mary as Nursing Mother

 


Consider: From the Protoevangelium of S. James:

And they stood in the place of the cave: and behold a bright cloud overshadowing the cave. And [Mary's] midwife said: My soul is magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen marvellous things: for salvation is born unto Israel. And immediately the cloud withdrew itself out of the cave, and a great light appeared in the cave so that our eyes could not endure it. And by little and little that light withdrew itself until the young child appeared: and it went and took the breast of its mother Mary.

From St. Ephraem's Hymns on the Nativity:

Mary bore a mute Babe
though in Him were hidden all our tongues.
Joseph carried Him,
yet hidden in Him was a silent nature older than everything.
The Lofty One became like a little child,
yet hidden in Him was a treasure of Wisdom that suffices for all.
He was lofty
but He sucked Mary's milk,
and from His blessings all creation sucks.
He is the Living Breast of living breath;
by His life the dead were suckled, and they revived.
Without the breath of air no one can live;
without the power of the Son no one can rise.
Upon the living breath of the One Who vivifies all
depend the living beings above and below.
As indeed He sucked Mary's milk,
He has given suck -- life to the universe.
As again He dwelt in His mother's womb,
in His womb dwells all creation.
Mute He was as a babe,
yet He gave to all creation all His commands.
For without the First-Born no one is able to approach Being,
for He alone is capable of it.


Mary's Milkdrops
(Lungwort: Pulmonaria officinalis)

It is amazing how female breasts can be surgically enlarged, reduced, lifted, and pierced, stuffed into "Wonder Bras," packaged, marketed and sold (or used to market and sell other things), but are rarely conceptualized in the Western world as being what they truly are: the means to feed babies.

While discretion, modesty, and politeness are always key virtues (for anyone, not just women), the way we think of the female breast is partially culturally conditioned, and I'm convinced that the modern Western view is unhealthy. Many years ago, I saw Joan Rivers on a TV show introduce a year's worth of "Playboy Playmates." Miss Rivers gushed over them, lauding them for their beauty, brains, talent, and "wisdom" in using their bodies to make a living. Then she introduced actress Connie Selleca who'd recently given birth to a child. "Oh, I hope you're not one of those women who breastfeeds in public!" she said. If I could've slapped Miss Rivers, I might have. What harm such attitudes cause women and their children! Breastfeeding is among the very best things a woman can do for her children, and I applaud women who give their children that if they're able, whether in private or, given our piggish, dirty-minded culture, discreetly in public.

To inspire women on, below are links to some of the most famous artistic depictions of Mary as nursing mother -- "Maria Lactans." They will open in new browser windows.


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One of the earliest depictions (if not the earliest depiction) of Mary, this is Our Lady as painted in the Priscilla Catacombs, ca. A.D. 250

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An early Coptic nursing Mary

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Amesbury Psalter, 13th c.
view Artist: Barnaba da Modena, A.D. 1328-1386

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Artist: Lorenzetti, ca. A.D. 1330

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Anonymous French sculpture, ca. A.D. 1335

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Artist: Berry, 14th. c.

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Artist: Berry, 14th. c.

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Wall painting in a church in Belchamp Walter, Essex, ca. A.D. 1350

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Artist: Ghissi, ca. A.D. 1350
view Artist: Jaume Serra, A.D. 1359

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Artist: Pisano, ca. A.D. 1360

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Artist: Veneziano, ca. A.D. 1370

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Artist: Orcagna, ca. A.D. 1370

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Artist: Bertram, ca. A.D. 1383

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Artist: Serra, ca. A.D. 1390

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Artist: Gaddi, ca. A.D. 1390

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Artist: Camerino, ca. A.D. 1400

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Artist: Bartolo, ca. A.D. 1400

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Artist: Robert Campin, "The Master of Flemalle," ca A.D. 1400

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Artist: Robert Campin, "The Master of Flemalle," ca A.D. 1400

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Artist: Robert Campin, "The Master of Flemalle," ca A.D. 1400

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Artist: Robert Campin, "The Master of Flemalle," ca A.D. 1400
view Artist: Robert Campin, "The Master of Flemalle," ca A.D. 1400
view Artist: Robert Campin, "The Master of Flemalle," ca A.D. 1400

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From "Les Très Belles Heures du Duc de Berry," ca. A.D. 1409, illustrated by the brothers Jean, Paul, and Hermann Limbourg. The brothers also later illustrated the better known "Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry" (some illustrations for this work were later added by Jean Colombe).

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Artist: Bartolo, ca. A.D. 1415
view Artist: Dieric the Elder Bouts, 1415-1475

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Artist: Masolino, ca. A.D. 1420

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Artist: Masolino, ca. A.D. 1420

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Artist: di Lorenzo, ca. A.D. 1430
view Artist: Carlo Crivelli, 1430-1498
view Artist: Weyden, A.D. 1433

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Artist: Weyden, A.D. 1435
view Artist: Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, ca. 1435

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Artist: Van Eyck, A.D. 1436

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Artist: Paolo, A.D. 1445

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Artist: Fouquet, ca. A.D. 1450
view Artist: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, 1466-1516, and Leonardo da Vinci
view Artist: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, 1466-1516
view Artist: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, 1466-1516
view Artist: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, 1466-1516
view Artist: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, 1466-1516
view Artist: Quinten Metsys, 1466-1530
view Artist: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519
view Artist: Lorenzo di Credi, 1459-1537

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Artist: Gozzoli, ca. A.D. 1484
view Artist: Jan Mabuse, 1478-1532
view Artist: Jan Mabuse, 1478-1532
view Artist: Jan Mabuse, 1478-1532
view Artist: Jan Mabuse, 1478-1532
view Artist: Jan Mabuse, 1478-1532
view Artist: Gian Giacomo De Alladio, also known as Macrino d'Alba, 1460/5-1528
view Artist: Lucas Cranach, ca. A.D. 1472-1553
view Artist: Memling, ca. A.D. 1478
view Artist: Master of Frankfurt, 1480-1520
view Artist: Raphael Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1483-1520

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Artist: Memling, ca. A.D. 1487

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Artist: Memling, ca. A.D. 1487
view Artist: Memling, ca. A.D. 1487
view Artist: Memling, ca. A.D. 1487
view Artist: Follower of Memling
view Artist: Master of the Legend of Mary Magdalene, 1480-1537
view Artist: Andrea del Brescianino,  1487-1525

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"The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard." This painting depicts the spiritual nourishing of St. Bernard by the milk of Our Lady, based on this legendary mystical experience: Bernard prayed before a statue of the Madonna, asking her, "Show yourself a mother" ("Monstra te esse Matrem"). The statue came to life and and squirted milk from the breast onto the Saint's lips. Artist: Unknown Master, Netherlandish, 1480-85
view Artist: Titian Tiziano Vercelli, 1488-1556
view Artist: Giampeietrino, possibly Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, active 1495-1549
view Artist: Giampeietrino, Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, active 1495-1549
view Artist: Antonio Allegri Correggio, 1489-1534

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Artist: Domenico, ca. A.D. 1490

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Artist: Gerard David, ca. A.D. 1490

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Artist: Gerard David, A.D. 1490

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Artist: Gerard David, A.D. 1490

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Artist: Gerard David, A.D. 1490
view Artist: Jacopo Carucci, also known as Jacopo da Pontormo, 1494-1577

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Artist: Michelangelo, A.D. 1496

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Anonymous Italian, 15th c.

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Artist: da Vinci, ca. A.D. 1500

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Artist: Solario, A.D. 1500
view Artist: Solario, A.D. 1500
view Artist: Solario, A.D. 1500

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Artist: Mainardi, ca. A.D. 1500

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Artist: Signorelli, ca. A.D. 1500

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Artist: Romano, A.D. 1510
view Artist: Follower of Leonardo da Vinci, after A.D. 1510

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Artist: Cleve, ca. A.D. 1512
view Artist: Cleve, ca. A.D. 1512/13

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Artist: Durer, 1512
view Artist: Cleve, ca. A.D. 1512
view Artist: Lucas Cranach, ca. A.D. 1512-15
view Artist: Master of the Mansi Magdalen, 1515
view Artist: Master of the Legend of Mary Magdalen, 1520
view Artist: Master of the Legend of Mary Magdalen, 1520
view Artist: Anonymous, 1520
Artist: Barnardino Luini, ca. 1520
Artist: Barnardino Luini, ca. 1520

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Artist: Durer, 1520
view Artist: Cleve, ca. A.D. 1520

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Artist: Cleve, ca. A.D. 1520

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Artist: Coreggio, ca. A.D. 1520

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Artist: Conti, ca. A.D. 1520

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Artist: Durer, ca. A.D. 1520

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Artist: Michelangelo, A.D. 1520

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Artist: Orley, A.D. 1522
view Artist: Cleve,  A.D. 1525
view Artist: Lucas Cranach, ca. A.D. 1530/5

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Artist: Beccafumi, A.D. 1540

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Artist: Morales, A.D. 1520

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Artist: Orazio Lomi Gentileschi, 1563-1639
view Artist: Orazio Lomi Gentileschi, 1563-1639
view Artist: Orazio Lomi Gentileschi, 1563-1639
view Artist: Orazio Lomi Gentileschi, 1563-1639

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Artist: Barocci, A.D. 1575

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Artist: Coxcie, Michiel van, ca. A.D. 1580

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Artist: Reni, Guido, A.D. 1575-1642

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Artist: Francisco de Zurbaran, 1598-1664
view Artist: Francisco de Zurbaran, 1598-1664

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Anonymous 16th c.

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Artist: El Greco, ca. A.D. 1600
view Russian Icon of the Flight into Egypt, 1600s

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Nuestra Señora de Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of Milk and Good Birth). This statue, ca. A.D. 1600-1620, is kept in the shrine devoted to Nuestra Señora de Leche y Buen Parto in St. Augustine, Florida -- the first Marian shrine in the United States.
view Artist: Erasmus Quellinus II, A.D. 1607-1678

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Artist: Rembrandt, A.D. 1630s

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Artist: Rembrandt, A.D. 1640

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"The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard." This painting depicts the spiritual nourishing of St. Bernard by the milk of Our Lady, based on this legendary mystical experience: Bernard prayed before a statue of the Madonna, asking her, "Show yourself a mother" ("Monstra te esse Matrem"). The statue came to life and and squirted milk from the breast onto the Saint's lips. Artist: Alonso Cano, A.D. 1650

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Artist: Zubaran, A.D. 1659
view Artist: Pompeo Batoni, A.D. 1708-1787

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Artist: Werf, Adriaen van der, 1714

 Unsorted, Anonymous

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Anonymous, Peruvian "Cuzco School"

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Anonymous, Peruvian "Cuzco School"
view Anonymous Master of Bruges
view Anonymous, Early Flemish School, 16th c.
view Anonymous

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Anonymous

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Anonymous
view Anonymous, perhaps Simon Marnion, 1425-1489
view Not sure. Possible the Master of the Legend of Mary Magdalen, 1520?
view PBeautiful icon of Our Lady nursing

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Painting from Bethlehem's ancient "Milk Grotto." The chapel whence this picture comes was built around the grotto by Franciscans in 1872.

 
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