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Mary, Undoer of Knots

Mary, Undoer of Knots by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist Narrative:

Pope Francis is responsible for the spread of devotion to Mary as the one who untangles the knots in our lives.  This devotion originated in Germany in the 17th century.  The following century, it became more formal when an artist created an image of Mary untying knots, which was placed in St. Peter’s Church in Augsburg.

This icon is a Byzantine interpretation of the original German devotion.  The Christ child on Mary’s lap puts into proper perspective her role as one who intercedes with God on our behalf.

The central symbol in the icon is the long tangled cord.  The tangled knots in the dirty cord represent our sinfulness--the ways our bad choices complicate our lives and keep us from finding happiness.  There is no human way to untie these knots.  To untangle a cord full of knots requires access to both its ends.  Here neither end is accessible.  The cord is seemingly endless, just as there seems to be no end to our brokenness and sinfulness.  The knots are also connected one to another, for sin has ramifications beyond the lives of individual sinners.  As the cord passes through Mary’s hands--as she prays to her Son for us--it comes out straight and clean.  All things are possible for God.

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Pope Francis’ Prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots

Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the day of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the devil was never capable of tying you up with his confusion.

Once with your Son you interceded for our difficulties, and full of kindness and patience, you gave us example of how to untie the knots in our life. By remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order and make more clear the ties that link us to the Lord.