The nursing Madonna figurine illustrates the flight into Egypt that is remembered this time of year. According to the gospel of Matthew, the Holy Family traveled from Bethlehem to Egypt after an angel warned them that King Herod would try to kill the infant Jesus.
It’s important to honor the breastfeeding Madonna because Christianity has often denied women’s experiences and the human body itself. We return to wholeness and balance by valuing the natural act of nursing as holy and good.
Some people were shocked by the bare breasts of the Madonna when Atlanta writer Trudie Barreras put the statue in a meditation chapel at her church. The pastor regretfully asked her to take it home. For the full story about the statue, see our previous post “Nursing Madonna shocks and inspires.”
In her monologue “Miriam’s Journey,” Barreras does a wonderful job of describing the physical sensations and spiritual musings of Mary as she nursed on donkey back. Here is an excerpt:
We soon became aware
Our little Yeshua needed safety greater than was offered
By our small-town obscurity.
So my brave Joseph took us forth on a retracing of the journey
Followed by our ancestor Joseph as he was led in slavery to Egypt.
That was when reality came crashing in!
I’d thought the way was hard
When first we went to Bethlehem!
Yet now I held the babe within my arms
For every dusty, weary, jolting league.
Mile after mile, day after day,
Nothing to be seen but rocks and thorn-trees
And endless burning desert sands.
The patient donkey plodded on
While Joseph walked the path ahead,
Probing crevices for serpents, scanning horizons for raiders.
I was afraid, yet somehow I saw with doubled vision
As I gazed into that infant face,
For God was here, and we had Abba’s promise
That if we did our part, and followed faithfully,
And did not turn aside from this hard path,
The angels would be there to guide us.
And oh, the blessing of those warm lips upon my breast,
Drawing nourishment and love from my deepest being!
I knew then what I have clung to ever since –
Somehow that vast Omniscient Spirit of the Cosmos,
All Powerful, Eternal, All Supreme,
Has chosen us, weak mortals that we are
To bear Love’s fragile gifts to one another!
We matter! What a miracle, we matter!
What an awesome challenge,
Knowing that if we don’t bear our burdens in obedience
Incredible blessings for humanity are lost.
It was these thoughts that kept me going
Long after weary arms would have let go!
At last that first hard journey ended, but of course
Really our pilgrimage had just begun.
For another excerpt from “Miriam’s Journey,” see our previous post “Eros & Christ: Mary’s Ecstasy in Drama.”
Our Lady of Milk: 20 Images of Mother Mary Nursing (St. Peter’s List)