Mary, Untier of Knots

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Friends in Christ, today we begin the New Year.
In the history of the Church, this day has been commemorated in different ways through the centuries. For the early Church in Rome, this feast day honored Mary as the Mother of God; but by the 7th century, influence from the Eastern Church led us to emphasize more the other Marian feasts, and following the practice in Spain and France, this day began to commemorate Jesus’ infancy and Circumcision. Nevertheless, the prayers of the Mass retained the theme of the Motherhood of Mary.[ii]
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The feast of the “Maternity of the Blessed Virgin” came to be celebrated in Portugal on October 11th; this was extended to the entire Church in 1931, and in 1969, in the reform of the calendar, it was restored to the more ancient practice of January 1st, which we have today.
And so it is a perfect way for us to begin the New Year by honoring Mary, the Mother of God, and our Mother.
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This Divine Mother, who cradles the new-born Jesus in her arms in this Christmas season – she also remains solicitous for her other children – us.
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St. Ambose, speaking of Jesus in the womb of Mary, says that virtually, we were all there with him. And God revealed to St. Bridget in a vision that although Jesus was Mary’s first-born Son in the flesh, all of mankind are her other children according to the Spirit.
So, Jesus’ Mother is our own Mother, and she really wants to help us.
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We’ve just completed 2014; looking back, there were certainly blessings we can point to, but also challenges or troubles that happened. No one knows what 2015 will hold, only God knows, but challenges always come: whether they be worrisome, practical problems, or temptations or even failures or discouragement. Troubles come in daily life that sometimes seem insolvable, and worry only makes them worse.
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I remember growing up, you can get a knot in a shoestring or in a drawstring; it seems impossible to ever untangle it. But then we go to mom; ‘Here, I can’t get it!’ And it’s not long, that somehow mom is able to get it all undone and every knot untangled.
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Now the dear Blessed Virgin has been called, the ‘Untier of Knots.’ There is a famous painting by Johann Georg Schmidtner from around 1700 which shows this. It was commissioned by a man whose prayer was answered by Mary – an answer to a very difficult problem.
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Mary as the Untier of knots originated with St. Irenaeus back in the 2nd century; he said that “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.” Mary undid the knot, that Eve had gotten us into.
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A Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was studying in Germany and came to love this image; he brought a copy of this painting back with him, to Argentina. The devotion spread. Today, not only Germany, but also in Argentina and Brazil one finds widespread devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots. The painting shows Mary calmly undoing the knots in a long rope, and this is the patient Mother who wishes to help us with all the knots – the troubles in our own life.
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Sin has a way of complicating everything. Sinful habits tangle up our heart and make it seem impossible to regain our happiness and freedom. The fall into a mortal sin, or so many other problems of life, can lead us to despair, just as a knot pulled tighter and tighter becomes harder to untie. But Mary can do it.
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A certain man in Germany had committed a great sin, and he was ashamed to confess it; on the other hand, he could not endure the guilt that he felt and he went to cast himself into the river; but just as he was on the point of doing so, he stopped, and bursting into tears he prayed for help, and went home.
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That night in his sleep, he felt someone waking him and heard a gentle woman’s voice say: ‘Go and make your confession.’ He went to the church, but yet did not confess.  A second night he heard the same voice, and again went to the Church, but he said he would rather die than confess that sin. He was about to return home when he stopped before an image of Mary and asked her help. Hardly had he knelt down before he felt himself entirely changed. He rose, called for a priest, and made a full and sincere confession. Later he would always say that on that day he felt happier than if he had gained all the gold in the world.
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Mary can help us untie the knots in our life, if we let her, none are too difficult.
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We make many resolutions for the new year.
Let’s make one resolution, that no matter the challenges, we will follow Jesus Christ in our life no matter what.
And for the other resolution: let us never fail to call on our Mother in heaven to help us do it.

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ii.  For this reason, the Traditional Latin Mass when offered today, still retains this official theme of the Circumcision of the Lord, although the prayers of the Mass continue the ancient theme of Mary, the Mother of God.

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