Mary, Undoer of Knots

If you look around you might get the impression that the world is upside down and we with it. We are confronted with conflicts which are far away from us, and often impossible for us to solve. But even in our immediate surroundings, in our congregations, communities, partnerships and families, yes, even within ourselves, there is a strife which can be overwhelming. Since the First Fall, all of creation has been groaning before the burden that lies upon it.

At some point, however, our sins go over our heads. Order breaks down, the transience of nature is exposed, justice is carried to the grave. Behind this is ultimately the disobedience of men’s sin. Instead of God and humans being united by the bond of love, we prefer to revolve around ourselves until we fall to the ground completely confused and unable to get up. In the worst case, this confusion leads to inaction, whereby man has given up acting wisely and well and is unable to stretch out arms and ask for help.

And yet, a light always shines in the dark, like the moon in the night which is one of many symbols of Mary. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so does Mary shine by her Son, who came into the world as a light and whom no darkness could overcome. Yes, Mary changed the destiny of mankind through her obedience. St. Irenaeus of Lyon summarized this with the image of a knot: “And so it happened that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What the Virgin Eve tied by unbelief, the Virgin Mary untied by faith.”[1]

Anyone who has ever visited the church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg (Germany) will find this symbol artistically reflected in a unique painting. It is the so called “Mary, Undoer of knots”. Here you see Mary untying the knots with her hands and motherly care—the knots of our lives that we could never untie alone. At the same time, she crushes the serpent, the symbol of the devil and fall of humanity. Like a pillar of obedience and faith she stands straight toward heaven, restoring order, yet always with her gaze lowered to the earth, the valley of tears. Her gentle eyes meet ours.

No matter how great the conflicts, no matter how tight the knots in our lives, no matter how deep the bite of the serpent, Mary is with us. She prays for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

“Mary, Undoer of knots, I come to thee carrying many joys and burdens with me.

Mary, Undoer of knots, who did not listen — the knots are many, they do not loosen.

Mary, Undoer of knots, how comforting it sounds: there is a hand, that unties the knots profound.

Mary, Undoer of knots, look at this ball! I cannot untie it - help me, holiest woman of all.

Mary, Undoer of knots, I am the knot – I am all confused: Beg for me by God!

Mary, Undoer of knots, you are already in the light, you know yourself what I still lack is in your sight.”[2]

Br. Justinus Grebowicz, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE

[1] Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies, III, 22.

[2] Freely translated by the author. Original text by Josef Weiger with additions of Günter Grimme.