The Way of Beauty Untying Knots with the Mother of Mercy

mary knots1

The New Year fittingly began under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God. With so many other titles accorded her, this most famous woman of all time is praised and loved across cultures and religious traditions. Without her inspiration, the arts-poetry and music, painting, art and architecture, would be woefully impoverished. Countless are the Marian churches and pilgrim sites whose magnetism draws those seeking her intercession with her Son.

Mary attracts young and old, men and women-people of all faiths and of none. Atheists amuse, proclaiming: 'God does not exist, and Mary is his mother.' Is she the softer face of the divine?  

A mother's love is unconditional especially when her children go astray.  Her tender mercy consoles like no other, and through her, the tightest of knots can be loosened and untied.   The Doors of Mercy have been opened across the time zones, and under her title, Mater misericordiae, Mary will exercise her role of mercy.  She will enlist our help in loosening and untying the most stubborn of knots wherever they exist.  

Knots in Mary's Life

With the angelic message, Mary's placid life at Nazareth was suddenly thrown into turmoil, as was Joseph's. Once married, they traveled to Bethlehem to enroll in the census.  Where was the Child to be born? In escaping Herod's wrath, they were filled with tension escaping to Egypt in the middle of the night like fugitives. Then there were predictions by Simeon and Anna about the Child's future.  And what if they had been careless and lost him in the temple environs?  It was one stressful event after the other-a series of knots.

Mary at Cana

At the wedding at Cana, we see Mary untying a knot for the bride and groom, at least in its initial stage (Jn 2:1-11).  The wine has run out.  On a day when they should be rejoicing, they're in great distress. What will the guests think and say?  

Mary notices even before the guests and intends to do something about it.  Jesus sees but plans to remain uninvolved. They're her friends, not his. Still, he will not refuse his mother's request.  She knows this ahead of time.  

'Now is not the time for a miracle,' Jesus promptly responds.  She looks past him as though not listening. "Do whatever he tells you," come the words to the servant. You have to love her cool, as our young people might say.

Our Lady Intercedes in a Potential Divorce 

The story of Our Lady who loosens knots begins in 1612 in Augsburg in Germany.  Wolfgang Langenmantel and Sophia Rentz, husband and wife and both of noble estate, were on the verge of a divorce.  Over a period of twenty-eight days, Wolfgang sought help from Jakob Rem, a Jesuit priest, together praying to Our Lady to untie the knots of their marital problems.  They prayed that she smooth out the ribbon that had bound them together at their wedding ritual. The divorce did not happen, and together the couple lived out their married life.  Years later, to commemorate this turn of events, their grandson, Fr. Hieronymus Langenmantel of St. Peter's Monastery in Augsburg commissioned the painting, "Untier of Knots."  

Mary and Islam 

To ask what Islam teaches about Mary is certain to puzzle many. We should admit that among otherwise well-educated Westerners, there exists a basic ignorance of the Islamic faith and the Qur'an.  Ignorance begets fear which in turn can paralyze persons, cities, and nations.

When Islam came into being in the seventh century, Christianity and devotion to Mary were already well established in the eastern and western part of the Roman Empire.  Mohammed claimed he was the bearer of God's revelation. Transmitted to him by the Angel Gabriel and the Spirit, the Qur'an is the final word of what Allah, the God of Abraham, Ishmael, and Jesus wished to communicate to humankind.  Mohammed is the final and most important messenger and prophet Allah sent.  

Jesus in the Qur'an

Jesus is mentioned in the Qur'an only twice without reference to his utterances and no mention of the Nativity narrative. There is no mention of Jesus' public life or of the redemption because he was not crucified and was not resurrected from the dead.  Jesus who is not the Messiah appears only as a holy messenger who did perform miracles.  He is not God, nor is he the Son of God, a fact that in the Islamic belief-system would contradict God's oneness (Sura 4:157, 159; 5:72).  Nor is Jesus Emmanuel, God-with-us.  God is not present or at work among us but remains outside of this world's concerns.  

Mary in the Qur'an

More in The Way of Beauty

The Qur'an negates the importance of Jesus while it extols the virtues of his Mother. However, she may not claim divine motherhood; she is not a Queen because Jesus is not a King, or rather the King of the Universe.  

Mohammed names the mother of Jesus, as 'the best woman ever to live.'  Several chapters in the Qur'an express an outpouring of love for her; she is mentioned thirty-four times, a far greater number than in the Gospels.  Given the fact that Jesus, Isa-bin-Maryam (the son of Mary), is spoken of so rarely contrasted with the many expressions of devotion to her, are we to conclude that the Mother is preferred to her Son? It would seem that Islam and the Qur'an present knotted doctrinal issues.  

Mary, a Bridge Builder?

With so many differences between the two faiths, Mary may very well be the only point of agreement between them-apart from their belief in one God.  The sheer outpouring of love for Mary in the Qur'an, especially in Surat Maryam (Chapter 19), proves that she is honored both in Islam and in Catholicism. Setting up a commission of Catholic and Muslim scholars would go a long way to begin a dialogue, with Mary as a point of agreement.

Mary's Mercy Becomes Ours: One Example

Here is one person's unusual interpretation of mercy during this Jubilee Year.

When Stefan was a child, his biological father left him.  Eventually, he immigrated to this country from Latvia. Then his mother left him.  Today, at twenty-nine, Stefan lives with his grandmother, a pediatrician, in her basement apartment. He sleeps on a couch and forgoes any luxuries or even basic privacy.  In return for lodging and food, he takes care of her. 

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Once in this country, Stefan met a remarkable tutor who has recently become his benefactor.  Gifted artistically, Stefan could not have entered the graduate level program at Parsons School of Design without some financial intervention.  When the Federal Loans left him shy of $5,500 each semester, his tutor and benefactor helped to secure his future by making up the difference.  No strings attached, except to keep up good grades.  Stefan's grades are almost all A's, and he has made the Dean's List.  Diligent to a fault, he submits superb papers and makes design presentations in class that win the admiration of his professors. What could be more salutary than helping to make a human life possible, promising, and fulfilling?  What better use of money? 

Mary's mercy must become ours, and our mercy must imitate hers. In this Jubilee Year, Pope Francis has exhorted each of us to walk through the doors of mercy with those in need of our support.  It need not be financial.  But any support must be sincere as each of us helps untie knots in the lives of others during this Year of Mercy.

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