Have you ever heard of the Milk Grotto?
Well, I sure hadn’t, until last year. The Milk Grotto (officially Magharet Sitti Mariam, “Grotto of the Lady Mary”) is a peaceful grotto located just a few minutes away from Bethlehem’s Manger Square.
According to tradition, the Holy Family took refuge in the Milk Grotto during Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents, before their flight into Egypt. There in the grotto, Mary nursed the newborn Jesus; and while she was nursing, a drop of milk fell to the ground—immediately turning the rock white.
The grotto has been a holy site for both Christians and Muslims, who believe that scrapings from the soft white stones in the grotto can boost the quantity of a mother’s milk and enhance fertility. The custom is for nursing mothers to mix the shavings into their drinking water. Expectant mothers place the rock shavings under their mattress.
During the fifth century, a church was built on the site of the Milk Grotto; and mosaic fragments from that period depicting geometrical motifs and crosses can still be seen today. More recently, the Franciscans have built a chapel over the Milk Grotto.
From November 28 through the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), the Franciscans broadcast Mass from the Milk Grotto live each day at this website. Catch the Mass live at 8:30 Rome time. (Ugh! I think that’s 2:30 a.m. Eastern Time, here in the U.S.)