Nursing Madonna as God’s Love

Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18

Mary nursing in a Nativity scene
I am sharing these pictures and scriptures, inspired by the Pope’s recent comments on breastfeeding, which led to a revisitation of this Huffington Post article:

“Ask anybody in the street what’s the primary Christian symbol and they would say the crucifixion,” said Margaret Miles, author of “A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750,” a book that traces the disappearance of the image of the breast-feeding Mary after the Renaissance.

“It was the takeover of the crucifixion as the major symbol of God’s love for humanity” that supplanted the breast-feeding icon, she said. And that was a decisive shift from the earliest days of Christianity when “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity.”

We know God loves us because God nurses us, has birthed us. I love the use of Mary as God’s love and it reminds me of all that Heavenly Mother has done for us.

Our Lady nursing the Infant Jesus

His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow. Job 21:24

Louvre-Breastfeeding Jesus

Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Numbers 11:12

The Virgin Mother feeding the Infant Jesus

That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. Isaiah 66:11


TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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4 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    I love this, and I love envisioning God’s love as that of a nursing mother.

  2. April says:

    These are beautiful images.

    Phrases like “nursing fathers” and “his breasts are full of milk” feel odd to me, but it is wonderful to know that these feminine symbols have signified God.

  3. Caroline says:

    Love these images! Thanks so much, Tophat.

    I like these associations of God (He) with nursing and motherhood. There’s a gender-bending quality to it, a flexibility when it comes to roles and images that resonates with me. Now we just need phrases about God (She) as Priest (ess), ruler, and almighty sovereign!

  4. EmilyCC says:

    It is statements like the Pope’s and posts like this one and art depicted here that are so necessary for this weird hypersexualization of the breast that we seem to have in US culture. Thank you!

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