“Mary, Undoer of Knots…” “Pray for us!” You know the first time I heard these words I thought it was a joke! I thought that someone was making up this sort of prayer or petition to our Blessed Mother to fit their particularly difficult situation. Truth is, I found out later that the title of “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and this devotion is real and has a long-standing tradition within our Catholic Christian Church! Not only that, this is Pope Francis’ favorite devotion to Mary! Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there is always something new to learn in our wonderful faith.
Actually this devotion of Mary is the fastest growing devotion currently in our world. “Mary, Undoer of Knots” has its beginnings in Germany known as “Maria Knotenloserin.” It began in 1616 when a German nobleman, Wolfgang Langenmantel, discovered that his wife was planning to divorce him. Panic and grief-stricken, he sought the advice of a holy man, a Jesuit named, Fr. Jakob Rem, with whom he met and prayed with on four different occasions in 28 days. In those days, it was common for the maid of honor, during the wedding ceremony, to join the arms of the bride and groom with a ribbon as a symbol of their lifelong union. Fr. Rem, took a ribbon, raised it before an image of Mary and proceeded to untie the knots. When he finished, it became dazzling white, which the priest took as a sign that his prayer was answered. Sure enough, Wolfgang and his wife, Sophia, remain together happily ever after. Thus was born a devotion.
Actually, St. Irenaeus a 2nd century apologist in his book: “Against the Heresies,” first referred to the “knot of Eve’s disobedience loosed by Mary, so this kind of theology has been around. Today, we have an image of Mary under this title. It’s a painting commissioned back in the year 1700 by Fr. Hieronymous Langenmantel in commemoration of the turning of the century. It’s a picture of Mary surrounded by angels with a long, knotted, white ribbon she is untying with their help. Mary is shown very focused and intent on undoing a series of knots on that ribbon, which is quite inspiring in itself!
How does this fit into Lent? Well, Lent is a time to be untied, to strive to be unfettered by the burdens that hinder us. It’s a time to look to Jesus, Mary and the Angels and Saints to pray for some assistance and help. What are the knots in your life that need to be loosened? How can you help others be untied? These are questions we should ask as well as things we could do as we make that great journey with Jesus for 40 days and 40 nights.
As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them; join them!” In other words, no one is going to do a better job of untying knots than the Mother of God herself so let her do that! Words to Live by: “Don’t count the days-make the days count! ”