Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pentecost and The Nursing Mother

Icon "Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Blessed Mother and the Apostles", by the hand
of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009
First of all, let me wish everyone reading this a blessed and happy Feast of Pentecost -- the birthday of the Church.  I pray that we may all experience a "refreshing in the Spirit" as we finish the Easter Season and enter into so-called "Ordinary" Time.  Not that Ordinary Time is ordinary in the sense we normally use that word, but rather just the regular days of the Church year which, I have found in my own life, to be usually anything but ordinary!

As noted above, the icon was finally finished in 2009.  Since then I have had several people ask me why there is no flame over the head of the Blessed Mother as there is over the heads of the Apostles?  This all has to do with my own personal feeling that since Our Lady was always "full of grace" and the spouse of the Holy Spirit, she, of all those who had gathered at Pentecost, did not need to be "filled" with the Holy Spirit -- she already was!  So, I just wanted you to know that I have my own reasons for not putting a flame there -- it didn't happen just because I am getting older and more forgetful!

"The Nursing Mother", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Since the Pentecost icon is an older one which I have shown to you a number of times, I decided to include a new drawing of Our Lady.  I am not sure that it is really finished yet as I continue to think about the significance of it; however, I did want to go ahead and share it just in case anyone has any comments to make that might help me see what may need to be changed about it.  Thus, I welcome your input and suggestions.  

The idea for this painting came from looking at well-known works by such artists as Leonardo da Vinci.  I realize from looking at various web sites, blogs and Facebook that the subject of this drawing -- Mary breastfeeding -- has been and has become once again a controversial one -- mainly as it has gotten mixed in with the effort to bring breast-feeding out in the open, so to speak.

In the paintings I worked from, the artists showed our Lady quite openly breastfeeding the child Jesus.  I also looked at early icons of Our Lady breastfeeding which usually show her with her breasts practically on her shoulders and looking very unlike normal breasts!  I am really not sure what the attitude was toward such openness during the time that our Lord Jesus was actually a baby; however this behaviour was quite acceptable in European society during the time of such great artists as Rubens, Rembrandt and da Vinci -- much more so than it is today.  

When I was working on this drawing, I had to decide how I would portray the nursing mother.  I thought quite seriously about showing the exposed breast, but then changed my mind the more I thought about it.  It seems to me that in today's culture which is hyper-sexualized to the point that even 12 year old girls are encouraged to dress in a way that borders on the images usually associated with soft porn, a woman's breast is no longer just a breast.  Sadly, such depictions of the Blessed Mother and Child often lead to rude remarks and even sacrilegious comments.  Thus I chose to suggest through the position of the drapery, the baby's mouth and the Blessed Mother's fingers, what was going on.  I hope it comes across to you, the viewer, as I intended.

One additional aspect to mention:  I purposely chose to show both Mother and Child with unfocused eyes in an effort to indicate that they had entered into that inner space which I think is unknown except to nursing mothers and babies.  



This past Friday I had a wonderful treat -- Braden came to visit me (with his parents, of course).  It was so wonderful to see him again and to see how much he has grown.  He is such a delightful boy!  He is also very happy (unless another new tooth is bothering him too much).  Since he had not even been crawling the last time he was here, I did not think to "child-proof" my place.  This meant that there was a lot of quick movement of every item from the coffee table soon after Braden arrived!  Although he is still not walking freely, he is able to pull himself up and walk by holding onto things.  So, anything within reach is at risk!

Below are some photos taken during the visit.  It was decided to take a few photos of Braden with me.  Because he is such a "wiggle-worm", you can see how much difficulty I had in getting him onto my lap.  He was obviously not going to sit on my lap but I was sure he would be willing to stand.  I was right.  The final photo was taken by Braden's mom on the way home.  He played so hard while he was here that he fell asleep almost immediately after the car started!

One photo we should have gotten but didn't was of Braden looking at Suki.  He was so fascinated with Suki as he had never before been close to an animal that wasn't caged.  Whenever Suki came near, Braden seemed totally caught up in looking and looking and saying words (so far unintelligible) about the situation!  Next time I will make certain that we get a photo of the two of them together.

Here we go!  Braden says "what are you doing with me?"  
I am just trying to hang on to this "wiggle-worm"!

Braden is still not sure what is going on and I am still just trying to get him to stand on my knees!

Success!!  Now Braden is a happy boy and I am a very happy "Auntie Sallie"

Here is Braden once again soon after the car started moving as he and his parents headed home!  He obviously had a good visit with me.


Meet "Vanessa", the great-niece of a dear, dear friend of mine.  Vanessa lives in Ireland 
and was born the day before Patrick last year.  So, they will both be 1 year at the end of June!


Suki looking very interested!
Here is a funny sketch I did of Suki, trying to capture the look she gets on her face when she hears me say:  "Suki, are you hungry?  

She definitely knows what these words mean.  She also knows what "no" means when I say it in a certain tone of voice and if she has been begging, she usually stops at this point.

Anyway, Suki had a busy time on Friday as well.  After Braden left, she crawled into the closet and went to sleep until sometime in the evening.  She did not even awaken at her usual supper time!  Amazingly, she did not seem too disturbed by Braden.  She was cautious around him just as she is around any new person who comes into her space.  However, she let Braden get very close to her.  At one point, Braden's father helped him reach out his hand and rub Suki's head gently.  There were no indications of any sort that Suki was disturbed by this.  So I am very hopeful that the two can develop a happy relationship over time.  Thankfully, at this point, Braden isn't showing any signs of having an allergic reaction to cat dander.

Otherwise Suki has had a fairly quiet week.  I have been gradually cutting back on the amount of food I give her each day and if she is aware of it, she is not saying anything about it so far.  This is in an effort to help her lose just a bit of weight for although she isn't really fat, she is overweight and I know that is not good for her.

As for me, I did not receive the call from the respirologist that I was told to expect either Thursday or Friday.   However, I know how terribly busy these doctors are so I am now hoping to hear from her on Tuesday or Wednesday.  If she still doesn't call then I will have to contact her secretary and get her to remind her.

Otherwise, everything remains the same with me.  Even with my various health issues, I continue to be able to reach out to others by email and by telephone -- still doing a bit of counselling.  I have no new projects underway at the moment although I am thinking about material for a new book -- but that is still just at the thinking stage.

I did receive a request for information from a hospital in the States regarding the icon of St. John of God (where he is holding a sick boy in his arms).  They are building a new wing and are deciding which particular saint it will be dedicated to.  St. John of God is under consideration as a representative for those in need of healing and the deacon in charge of finding appropriate images of the different candidates contacted me regarding the icon.  If St. John of God is chosen, they would like to use the icon for display in some area of the new addition!  I haven't said anything about this previously as I only learned this week that the icon is a serious contender.  So, now I am asking you to please pray with me that if it be God's will, that the image of St. John of God be chosen as I really want to encourage devotion to his intercession after his prayers helped to lead to the cure of all those heart problems I had.

Well, it is almost time for the people to arrive from the Cathedral with Holy Communion on this great Feast Day.  How I wish I could be at Mass today, but I am still not well enough.  Soon, please God, soon.

"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth."

Virgin Mary, protector of the unborn, pray for all of us, especially for all pregnant women and new mothers.


P. Melitón said...

Hello Sallie, nice post. I hope your health better. Thanks for the drawings and the explanations.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sallie,
I loved your photos with Braden, thanks for posting. Especially the third one looks great.
Your new Nursing Mother icon of Our Lady looks good - I think you made a smart decision about hiding her breast. Although I've seen may Eastern Orthodox icons where the breast is visible.
How is your hairdresser, Suki?
Tell her that Dimitri is also trying to lose some weight. Good luck to both!
Love & prayers,

P. Melitón said...

Hello Sallie, I thought I saw a comment on the nursing mother from you, but now I don´t know if it was a dream or truth, because I can´t find it.

Concerning the Nursing mother, I´d like to know which paint of Leonardo is specifically, for comparison.

And well, she´s very beautiful, and if you´ve drawn her this way, it´s because she had to be drawn this way. Nothing more to say on the subject of breast and eyes.

For me it´s ok.


P. Melitón said...

Hello Sallie, I thought I saw a comment on the nursing mother from you, but now I don´t know if it was a dream or truth, because I can´t find it.

Concerning the Nursing mother, I´d like to know which paint of Leonardo is specifically, for comparison.

And well, she´s very beautiful, and if you´ve drawn her this way, it´s because she had to be drawn this way. Nothing more to say on the subject of breast and eyes.

For me it´s ok.


Sallie Thayer said...

Dear P. Meliton: The da Vinci image that influenced me can be found at
The painting is general attributed to da Vinci or one of his students.
Thanks for your kind remarks.