The Lactation Miracle of St. Bernard
© Fr. Michael Morris, OP
Stained glass window currently on display in Blackfriars Gallery as part of our current exhibit: Visual Meditations from Thomas Merton's Abbey of Gethsemani.
Based on one of the later legends of the great Cistercian Abbot Saint Bernard, he was reportedly praying one day in 1146 before a statue of the Virgin Mary in Speyer Cathedral. In his prayer he asked the Virgin to "Show that you are a mother..." (Monstra te esse matrem). The statue suddenly came alive and squirted milk on Bernard's lips. In this mystical encounter Bernard becomes a spiritual son of Mary sharing a kinship with Christ who was also nourished by Mary's milk.
From the Middle Ages through the Baroque period, much theological and pictorial attention was made on the subjects of Christ's blood and Mary's milk. By the Blood of Christ one gained redemption. Mary's milk became, on the other hand, a symbol of nourishment and hope on that road to salvation.