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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Breast Feeding Jesus

My rosary meditations may sometimes lead  me down strange paths.  My meditations one the nativity has led me deeper into the relationship between Jesus and Mary.  In Rosary meditations my practice, as that of many others is to imaginatively model the behavior and thoughts of a character in the rosary mystery.  For those who don't know, the prayers of the rosary are organized into decades of ten Hail Mary's and an Our Father, each with a "mystery" of biblical origin, such as the "Nativity of Jesus" to meditate on while praying.  For me, meditating on the nativity leads naturally to the closeness of Mary and Jesus.

There is no closer moment between a mother and child than the moment of breast feeding  Since the Virgin became the subject of painting, the depiction of Mary nursing Jesus has been the way to show there intimacy and union.

In the Gospel of Luke the good doctor records that Mary remembered and contemplated all the moment of the nativity and infancy of Jesus. As a mother may become as one with the child while nursing, the Virgin was remembering and contemplating her union with God incarnate.

Through experience and practice at the rosary, and letting the grace of God lead me in my understanding of the words and images the rosary meditation stirs up, I have been able to add a great deal of physical sensation to my identification with the characters of the biblical stories.  I believe it it within the reach of anyone who is deep in prayer to do this, and that it is the gateway to the stage none as "contemplation"  Contemplation is that stage of prayer were one simply listens to the Word of God" or gazes on the Sacred Images or otherwise moves into higher awareness of of the Divine Presence.  I believe some of the painters of Sacred Images were in or moving towards this stage when they painted.  this has occurred from the most ancient times to modernity.

I have been mediating on the experience of Mary nursing Jesus attempting to overcome the limits of my gender experience in identifying with Mary.  And through God's grace I have had some limited success in visualizing and physical knowing the act of feeding Jesus. It may seem impossible to some, but while never having had a crown of thorns on my head, I have had some limited experience of the thorns in meditating on them. I advocate the use of this technique to deepen ones prayer.

Perhaps, as in this painting above, I should imagine Mary's Joy in suckling Jesus. My effort is to enter Mary's union with her child, through her help and God's grace. In the Benediction and Eastern Orthodox  traditions of Christianity union with God is the usual described object of contemplation.  It is to be understood that as creatures approaching the Unknowable, such unity is never complete, but that it does change us and our relationship to God.  This is the experience I seek and urge all you who pray to seek.  

The above is an eastern icon of Mary nursing her child.  Icons deliberately exclude anything that might lead someone away from contemplation of God.  For instance the eyes are flat and non-reflective.  The figures have a graceful simplicity of form so that we are drawn to nothing but there relationship to God. Icons point us to God.  One could pray the rosary and and the same time view an icon such as this.  The tradition with icons is to begin to commit them to memory so that you can remain in contemplation of them.  I believe that it is possible to reconcile the contemplative listening to the Word and the contemplative gazing upon images through such efforts.   Finally I leave you with a hymn to the Theotokos, the Mother of God. 

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