We live in confusing times; with entangling alliances, political decisions that seem to defy logic, and frustration for the common person on many levels about many issues. There is an aspect of Mary that can give us an answer, a way out, of our puzzling situation. This would be Mary, the Untier of Knots. The devotion to Mary, Undoer (or Untier) of Knots is about 300 years old, both the icon and the devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots, trace their roots to a passage from a famous work, Against Heresies, by the second-century bishop, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. In discussing Mary's role as the Second Eve, Saint Irenaeus writes that "the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith." In popular devotion, this image was extended to the Blessed Virgin's intercession for us in Heaven. The knot is a good representation of the results of sin in our spiritual life: As we engage habitually in sin, it becomes harder and harder to return to virtue, just as a knot that is pulled tighter and tighter becomes harder to untie. God's grace, however, offered to us through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, can undo any knot and conquer any sin.
However, the devotion became more widely known as Pope Francis spoke about and promoted it throughout his papacy, and while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pope Francis said: “Through Mary, all the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience can be undone”.
According to Mariologists, unlike many other Marian devotions, the devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots did not come about through an apparition, but through her intercession. German Nobleman Wolfgang Langenmantel and his wife, Sophie, had marital problems and were on the brink of a divorce. Wolfgang was very distraught, and went to Jesuit priest Fr. Jakob Rem for counseling. The two prayed together to the Blessed Virgin Mary for Wolfgang’s marriage each time they met.
While meeting for the last time on Sept. 28th, 1615, Wolfgang provided Fr. Rem with his wedding ribbon, which was used during his wedding ceremony to tie the couple together as a symbol of unity. Fr. Rem then took the ribbon, lifted it up next to an image of Our Lady of the Snows, and asked Mary if she would “untie the knots” of Wolfgang’s marriage. The ribbon then loosened, completely untied, and became extremely white. Even though precise details were not given, Wolfgang and Sophie reconciled after this happened.
Wolfgang and Sophie’s grandson, Fr. Hieronymus Langenmantel, became a priest and asked for a painting to be done in memory of the story. In the painting, Mary unties the knots of marriage and life. One angel gives her the knotted ribbon, while the other holds the unknotted side and presents it to us. Mary also crushes Satan’s head, representing her Immaculate Conception. The dove above her head symbolizes her spouse, the Holy Spirit. At the bottom of the image, St. Raphael the Archangel accompanies Wolfgang walking towards a monastery. Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner painted the Mary, Undoer of Knots, entitled Wallfahrtsbild , image around the year 1700. It is on display at St. Peter am Perlach-Church in Augsburg, Bavaria in Germany.
Perhaps the most famous prayer to Mary, the Untier of Knots is as follows;
Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot:
(Insert your prayer request here)
I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, you are my hope. O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me. Amen.
Overall, Mary provides the path that can free us from the knots which encumber our world today. We can ask for her indulgent patience in disentangling us from the snarl of knots in which we find ourselves. As our loving mother, Mary sees the problems and answers our prayers.