Friday, January 10, 2014

Touching Mary's Breasts: A Forgotten Aspect of Marian Devotion?

Reading ancient Christian materials can, I hate to admit, become monotonous at times.  At other times, between all of the sermonizing and exhortations and apologies, one reads something that catches you off-guard.

I was reading through some of the spurious letters of Ignatius, and found this one allegedly addressed to  John the Presbyter, who according to tradition was Mary's (mother of Jesus - not Mary Magdalene) protector.  In any case, "Ignatius" writes to John the following that made me do a double-take:
There are also many of our women here, who are desirous to see Mary [the mother] of Jesus, and wish day by day to run off from us to you, that they may meet with her, and touch those breasts of hers which nourished the Lord Jesus, and may inquire of her respecting some rather secret matters.
I have never heard of such a desire/request in terms of devotion before.  Perhaps medievalists have?  Of course, paintings of Mary from much later often picture her breastfeeding and it becomes a significant part of Marian devotion then.  Perhaps its roots are here in some way?  Nonetheless, definitely out of the ordinary after reading so much about obeying your bishop.

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