Mary, Undoer of Knots and Pope Francis

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PALO, Leyte, Jan. 20, 2015 — Had the Vicar of Christ gotten the chance to go inside the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo last Jan. 17, he would have seen a beautiful work of art right in the middle of the 5-building complex – a reminder of a devotion close to his heart.

Lovingly sculpted by South Korean artist Lee Jong-Kuk, a member of the third order of Kkottongnae, the 3-meter high statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the pedestal, is a the artist’s personal gift to the people of Palo.

 The 1.7-meter wide Our Lady, Undoer of Knot is found inside the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, Leyte. (Photo: Madonna Escolano)

The 1.7-meter wide Our Lady, Undoer of Knot is found inside the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, Leyte. (Photo: Madonna Escolano)

According to Fr. Philip Park, one of the Kkottongnae missionary priests in charge of the center, it was during the Asian Youth Day held in August 13 to 17, 2014 that South Koreans first heard of the devotion to Our Lady as the Untier of Knots. He recounted how everyone chosen to meet Pope Francis was crestfallen when they were told that the pope could not stay any longer and had to immediately fly back to Manila because of typhoon Amang. But they also understood that the changes in the schedule were necessary to ensure the pope’s safety. Park said that perhaps in the near future, the pontill would be able to personally behold the exquisite image of Our Lady watching over the complex.

Eve to Mary

Maria Knotenlöserin, Mary Undoer (or Untier) of Knots, is a painting by an unknown artist venerated in the Church of Saint Peter in Perlach (St. Peter am Perlach) in the center of Augsburg (Bavaria), Germany.

The title “Undoer of Knots” is a reference to the teaching of Saint Irenaeus in which he compares and contrasts Eve and Mary. In respect to the Fall and Redemption both are betrothed and yet virgins. One union of man and woman delivers death, the other life. In Eve, faithlessness and disobedience brings destruction. In the Theotokos, faith and obedience brings regeneration:

And thus also it was 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.

This Marian devotion is more than 300 years old, but has recently grown since Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J., later Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Pope Francis, brought a postcard of the painting to Argentina in 1986 after seeing the original while studying in Germany. Pope Francis had this image of the Virgin Mary engraved on a chalice he presented to Pope Benedict XVI and another chalice bearing her image, the work of the same silversmith, is to be presented to Pope Francis on behalf of the Argentine people.

Bergoglio’s devotion

In 1986, the then Padre Bergoglio finished his term as rector for the seminary, and was sent to Germany for six months. At the time, to borrow modern parlance, Fr Bergoglio was not in a good place – the Dirty War had exacted a heavy toll on his nerves and he worried that the Jesuit community would never recover from the many mutinies that had taken place in their ranks.

But it was in Germany that he would find solace when praying before the painting of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, in Augsburg. He carried the devotion from Germany back home to Argentina.

A copy of the original German painting was made in an ordinary Argentinean church, San José del Telar. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would stroll into this modest church and pray before the painting.

Pope Francis uses the symbolism of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, to explain matters of the faith. The knots represent the sins that separate us from God, and Our Lady, in untying them, brings us closer to God. As the Pope has 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.”

How befitting that we call upon our Mother of Mercy to undo the knots that keep us far from God’s favor!

Those interested to start their own devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots may click on the link (Madonna Escolano/CBCPNews)

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