I thought this was an intriguing article for the Pre-Nativity (Advent) season:
The article raises the fact that Mary breast feeding Jesus is an image that fell out of favor. In the West, this is certainly true. It would also seem that it fell out of favor in part because of “Victorian” concerns. Even today, the when and how of women breast feeding is a debated topic.
In the Orthodox Church, we have a tradition of such icons, as is noted here:
That may surprise some people, but there it is. I myself remember seeing a large, prominent icon of this type in a monastery in Romania (but I cannot remember which monastery it had been). What I think is important to note is that it is an image that makes abundantly clear just how real Jesus’ humanity was. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God and the Word of God [yes, please note properly speaking, the “Bible” is not the Word of God, the Word of God is Christ crucified and risen]. That is very true and were it not true, we would not be saved, but we must also remember that we recognize is full humanity as well.
On that first Christmas night (or shall I say very early morning) Christ was breastfed. This image is one of importance for testifying to his humanity. It also testifies to the motherly love Mary had for him. Here, at Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the crucified and risen one, with all that means. For, if one can be crucified, then one is human and to be human means to engage in sort of mundane activities we humans do.
And so, as we gather for Christmas, let us remember just how holy it is to be living as a Christian family and just how holy it is to bring new life into the world. And let us remember, most of all, that Christ brought the Life of the world to us.