Mary, Untier of Knots
PRAYER TO THE VIRGIN MARY AS UNTIER OF KNOTS
Holy Mary, full of the presence of God during your life you accepted with great
humility the Holy Will of the Father and the legacy of your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Evil never dared to entangle you with its confusion. Since then you have
interceded for all of our difficulties. With all simplicity and patience, you have
given us an example on how to untangle the knots in our complicated lives. By
being our Mother forever, you arrange and make clear the path that unites us to
Our Lord. Holy Mary, Mother of God and ours, with your maternal heart untie
the knots that upset our lives. We ask you to receive in your hands (mention who
or prayer request) and deliver us from the chains and confusions that have us
restrained. Blessed Virgin Mary, through your grace, your intercession and by
your example, deliver us from evil and untie the knots that keep us from uniting
with God, so that once free of every confusion and error, we may find Him in all
things, have Him in our hearts and serve him always in our brothers and sisters. Mother of Good Counsel prays for us.
History of the Devotion
Mary Untier of Knots (also known as Mary Undoer of Knots) is the title of a Marian devotion.
This devotion begins with the story of Wolfgang Langenmantel, a German nobleman and his wife, the noblewoman Sophie Imoff. Wolfgang and Sophie loved each other deeply yet they began to drift apart. In the year 1612, their marriage became genuinely troubled. Fear of losing his wife was overwhelming for Wolfgang so with the hope of saving his marriage, he sought help from Father Rem, a Jesuit priest who lived north of Augsburg. When together, Wolfgang and Father Rem prayed, always honoring Mary.
The Last Meeting On the day of their last meeting, Wolfgang, in a gesture of gratitude, gave Father Rem his wedding ribbon. (Tradition was: as a symbol of their being joined for all of their lives, the maid of honor joined the arms of the couple with a knotted ribbon.) Offering a ceremonial prayer, Father Rem took the ribbon, lifted it and, one at a time, and untied each knot.
As he smoothed out the wrinkled ribbon, it became pure white. This was seen as symbolic and because of it, the couple reunited and their marriage was saved.
A Painting as a Tribute to the Langenmantel Family Years later, Wolfgang’s grandson who was a priest and doctor of canon law, donated a family altar to the Church of Saint Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Germany. He wanted a painting created for the altar but not just any painting. It was to honor and represent the history of the Langenmantel family.
The artist chosen to create this painting was Johann Melchior Georg
Schmittdner. After learning their history, Johann decided to focus his painting
on the story of Wolfgang, Sophie and Father Rem and portrays Mary untying
the knots in the ribbon that is symbolic of married life.
The Painting and its Symbolism
Mary is central in the painting. Her feet crushing the serpent tells us that she,
the Immaculate Conception, is the one exempt, by special grace, from original
sin and is, therefore, the serpent’s eternal enemy. Above her head is the dove
which symbolizes Mary as the Bride of the Holy Spirit. Angels are on each side
of her. One angel gives the knots of our lives to Our Lady and the other gives the
ribbon, free from knots, to us. Underneath Mary, the worried noble Wolfgang,
accompanied by the Archangel Raphael, walks towards a monastery.
Although the story which inspired the painting vanished from history, the
painting remained in the church. It has survived wars, revolutions and secular opposition and to this day adorns the altar.
The Devotion is Renewed
This reference to Our Lady as the intercessor who unties knots, goes back to the
second century but the devotion was not well known until recently.
When Pope Francis, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was studying in Germany, he
was so drawn to the painting of “Our Lady Untier of Knots” that he acquired a
copy and brought it back to Argentina where he promoted devotion to Mary
under this title. The devotion became popular in Argentina and remains one of
Pope Francis’ favorites. He has used the symbolism of Our Lady, Undoer of
Knots, to explain matters of the faith. For Pope Francis, the knots represent the
sins that separate us from God. Mary’s untying them, brings us closer to God.
Pope Francis said, “Mary, whose ‘yes’ opened the door for God to undo the knot
of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us
to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy.”
The title, Untier of Knots, gives us another way to ask for Mary’s intercession.
As we reflect upon our lives and the issues with which we struggle, the “knots”
become evident. We go to Our Lady asking that she untie the knots which prevent us from attaining our inner peace.
BY Marilyn Nash