In a recent lectionary reading from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 11: 27), a crowd has been following Jesus and listening to him speak about demon possession and exorcism. Somewhere in the rustling, listening group, a woman calls out to him,
"Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou has sucked." (King James Version)
Being an ex-English major and Bible nerd, I had to go look up all the other translations for this verse. Here's the New King James Version:
"Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which nursed you." Well, ok-ish, but getting dimmer.
The New International Version has,
"Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." A tad wordy.
The Message translates this as, "Blessed the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed." Awkward, I'd say. And not fleshy enough for me.
Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou has sucked.
There's a picture to stop you in your tracks and bring up a vivid, incarnational image of Mary nursing baby Jesus at her paps.  It links me to Mother Mary and what it was like for her to give birth in a stable or perhaps the worst hotel room in the world; to have Joseph, maybe, cut the umbilical cord with a piece of thread from the bottom of his worn cloak; to have him pat Jesus dry with an old cloth from a kind woman at the inn; and to have him lay baby Jesus on Mary's warm, tired body to give suck. Suck. I just love that word.
I nursed two babies as long as they would let me, and I will never forget the wonder and delight at feeling my milk let down and then spurt into the hungry pink mouths of my babies.  It was sacramental. Incarnational.
I will continue to keep my copy of the King James Bible (which was instrumental in my conversion) nearby so I can dive into it for the old
, palpable words which hum with life.
Paps. Give suck. Thanks, Mommy Mary, for birthing and nursing the baby who grew into the man I try to follow.


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