Virgin-of-the-Milk-Siloe-Wood

Mary is a breastfeeding mother, to state the obvious.  Lots of realistic depictions here.

All over the news: Pope Francis encouraged a woman shy to breastfeed her infant in public to feed that child, there and then.  To feel free and empowered to do it.. “Please give it something to eat.”  Comfort, always, and food, breast-milk so perfect nutritionally, in sweetness, in fats, in taste, in what it delivers immunologically and microbiologically and the nearness of warm loving skin, through which it’s delivered.  Lactation really is a miracle, and very beautiful, and the first food a mother can give her baby, and Slow Food, because a body makes the milk in the time required, and all about “Food Sovereignty” because a woman can decide, in a kind of beautiful dance with Baby, when to feed, how long to feed, how much milk to produce, not intrinsically tied to corporations or regulations or industrial regimes.

I remember the years when I was breastfeeding my babies, even as a non-Christian, feeling a spiritual affinity with Mary and the nursing Baby Jesus.  (And when you’re heaviliy pregnant, it also becomes possiible to deeply imagine the physical travail of riding into Bethlehem on a donkey, and the kind of anxiety that must have accompanied not knowing where one would spend the night.  (No one helped Mary give birth, did they– she did it alone, without a midwife?  I can’t believe I don’t know the answer to this question.)

The breastfeeding Mary powerfully symbolises love, and the addressing of hunger.  This wonderful article discusses how the symbol of the breast predates the centrality of the crucifixion as a symbol and  “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity…”

I always felt, as a breastfeeding mother, that there was a meanness and cruelty to the judgement that I shouldn’t nurse publicly, forbidding to the infant too, that we should go instead into a toilet or restroom for privacy.  Lactivists across the world are battling for a change in social outlook on this.  Yet– what if issues around breastfeeding became linked with food rights and food sovereignty and all the broad ways we are coming to define them.  I find it really powerful that Pope Francis has made these connections– drawing a wider metaphor about social aspects of food, from a crying baby who wants some boob, without a need to disentangle comfort and hunger — which exist together and can be answered together.

Lots to say really about the industrial food grid and the sacred time before child is on it….  but must go cook dinner for kids now, so will revise later  🙂 …

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