Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mary, Undoer of Knots

In the entry of a church we visited recently an easel with a picture of Mary on it stood to the side.

Mary, mother of Jesus, is venerated in the Catholic Church as our heavenly mother and one who intercedes for us as we take our prayers to her.

Many Catholic churches have statues and other representations of Mary. The picture of Mary on its easel wasn’t enough to catch my full attention but the caption below it did.

I moved in closer to read it. I’m a sucker for anything in print. The caption said: "Mary Undoer of Knots." And that did have my interest.

The phrase had me immediately. It created a domestic scene in my head. It was so easy to picture Mary patiently undoing the knots that come along, as they will in life.

There she is, head bent over handwork in her lap, perhaps seated in the open doorway where she can both apply her needle and keep an eye on Jesus at play. 

She looks up for a moment – maybe to see where her son is – and goes back to her patching or hemming to find an unexpected knot in the thread as she mends his pants or Joseph’s shirt.

Undoer of Knots is one of many descriptions for Mary. These descriptions, or titles, are ways to make her role as Mother of God more understandable to us. 

They depict her holiness and teach us her generous care, which she shows for each of us.

The title Undoer of Knots has timeless appeal. Mary was a woman of her era and time. We can think of her in that time limited scope if the larger role the Church has for Mary doesn’t fit with our idea of Jesus’ mother.

As a wife and mother she had a job to do and tasks to perform. It was much like it is for us today. 

As marriage partner/ parent / manager of the household needs she undid the knots in front of her, whatever they may have been.

She did this by quietly listening or offering her thoughts to help her family see their way to addressing their doubts or solving their quandaries. 

She did the same for others who might have come to her with small problems that arose from time to time.

Life consistently throws curve balls at us. It has often looking for someone who can help when we’re in over our heads. We’re eased by having someone quietly by who knows our score.

Peaceful attentive companionship redirects our energy positively. It can allow us to find resolution to our problems. Mary, in the title Undoer of Knots, gives comfort. Here is one willing to assist with our knots.

All of us are Undoers of Knots in our relationships, and wherever we spend our time and have our interests. 

We bend to a matter, or listen carefully and respectfully, when someone comes to us with a situation that requires adjustment or a little fixing.

As we untangle and sort out minor problems, whether our own or those of others to whom we give active help, we learn a kind of humility. Through patience and practice we follow Mary’s model for service.

In lending a hand to another we realize the grace that accompanies helping someone. We get a deeper understanding of the beautiful connotation of Undoer of Knots as a title for Mary.  

Mothers formed my first mental images as I thought about the meaning of Undoer of Knots. Mary first, and then my mom.

Many impressions from my childhood are of Mom fixing one problem or another. They weren’t sticky, messy issues but they stand out. Her attention was healing balm on vexing situations or tearful moments.

Sometimes the knot was undone with a Band-aid and a kiss. Other times the fixing was cookies fresh out of the oven.

The fixing was also in something as prosaic as neatly darned socks. Holes in socks were darned then. 

Mending was an endless work loop for a mom with a big family. A drawerful of mended socks told of a mother's love and vigilance toward her family's welfare. 

Mom’s undoing of knots always put back on its feet whatever (even so slightly) was in need of an assist.

Undoer of Knots is a phrase that attaches to my brother as well. His training in fixing knots came early. 

He was Grandpa’s fishing buddy. Grandpa put some magnificent backlashes into his fishing reel when he fished the river. Luckily my brother was along, both to row the boat and to untie Grandpa’s snarled lines. 

Grandpa tried to repay him. The jingle of coins extracted from his pockets was treat money at the store for his pleased grandson.

My brother’s skill with undoing knots bailed me out too. I had jewelry with chains that kinked no matter how carefully they were set back after use. 

This one time a dainty gold chain I took out to wear was a snarled mass. It was a great relief to turn the chain over to him.

I’m sure my brother got me out of other jewelry jams. He worked at anything that was given him until the knot loosened. He had the patience of a saint to untangle any snarl.

I did some looking up about devotion to Mary under the title Undoer of Knots. It appears that Pope Francis is part of the reason for its spread.

The charismatic Pope, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in South America, bought a postcard of the painting "Mary Untier of Knots" in the 1980s. The original hangs in a church in Bavaria and is well known.

The Argentine Jesuit priest brought the postcard home with him. It was his intent to make Mary under this title more widely known on his continent. Marian devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots continues to grow. 

It can remind us that our small problems, which seem to effortlessly reseed themselves like weeds, are never too big or too little to have someone who cares. 

Ro Giencke- May 7, 2014

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