An Argentinian silversmith, Juan Carlos Pallarols, is handcrafting a simple silver chalice for Pope Francis, which will be embossed with two images of the Blessed Mother: Our Lady of Lujan, an Argentinian image of the Immaculate Conception, associated with a 17th century miracle, and Our Lady Undoer of Knots, a German devotion which Cardinal Bergoglio brought to Argentina in the 1980′s and has since promoted there. The same silversmith collaborated with Cardinal Bergoglio in designing another chalice, embossed with the image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots, which the Cardinal presented to Pope Benedict shortly after he ascended to the Chair of St. Peter.
It is quite interesting that that this Argentinian pope should have a personal attraction to the German devotion. It provides a kind of link between the two successors of St. Peter, of which there are others.
Even Our Lady of Lujan and the Undoer of Knots are connected by a common thread. The title “Undoer of Knots” is a reference to the teaching of St. 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 one case, faithlessness and disobedience brings destruction. In the other, 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.
The doctrine of St. Irenaeus is early patristic testimony for Mary’s title New Eve, which in turn, is the theological basis for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Eve’s name means “Mother of All the Living.” However, the fruit of her childbearing is not life but death, since, through her disobedience, all her children are subject to death. Our first parents are the moral heads of the human family, and this is why we inherent the effects and punishment of their sin (the stain of Original Sin, its effects, and death). Jesus and Mary are the new moral heads of the supernatural family of the Church. Christ is the new Adam and Mary is the New Eve, the true Mother of All the Living. Because of Her obedience, the fruit of Her childbearing is LIFE itself, and as Her children we inherent that patrimony through grace.
But there is even more to the doctrine of St. Irenaeus than this. For Irenaeus the predestination of Jesus and Mary is not related in the first place to the sin of our first parents but to the very intention of God to create anything at all in the first place. In other words, God created all things in order to bring Christ into the world through Mary. In the order of intention, Jesus and Mary come first. Redemption becomes a necessity because of the sin of Adam and Eve, but Christ and His Mother were not predestined in the first place because of sin. (Read Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 and in this light). This gives an entirely exalted view of the headship of Christ and Our Lady.
We know the New Adam has no stain of Original Sin because He is God and his flesh is taken from the sinless Virgin. But what is the internal logic behind Her sinlessness? Because Christ and Our Lady are willed before all things in creation, including Adam and Even from whom they descend in the flesh, Jesus and Mary are never under the moral headship of Adam and Eve. Therefore, it is just that Our Lady should never be touched by the stain of Original Sin, even when we consider the question separately from the need of the sacred humanity of Christ to be taken from a sinless mother.
This is the logic behind the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as taught by the Subtle Doctor, the great Franciscan Blessed Duns Scotus. The reason he so eloquently articulated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was because of his understanding of the nature of the predestination of Christ, or what Franciscans have called the Absolute Primacy of Christ, which is also known as the Franciscan Thesis.
All of this is boiled down to simple devotion in the image and prayer associated with the title Undoer of Knots:
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
The Immaculate Conception is the reason why Our Lady has such power to undo sin and suffering. It is why She is the Mother of Mercy and the Refuge of Sinners. It is why She is able to gather all peoples under Her Mantle. She who is the Mother of LIFE Himself, is the Mother of All the Living.
Pope Francis urges us to receive and give mercy. And in today’s homily for the Solemnity of St. Joseph he recommends even human tenderness. Our Immaculate Mother, is more a Mother than we realize. She takes care of Her children, especially when they turn to Her with confidence. There is no knot tied so tight and entangled so hopelessly that She cannot undo it and restore life to good order. Consecration to Mary is precisely a commitment to this kind of hope and confidence.
The fact is that we learn about God and His love for us by proceeding from the lower to the higher, from what is material to what is spiritual. (This too is a very Franciscan idea.) The knot that most has us tied up in life is the knot of our sins. All human suffering, one way or another, is traceable to this. But more immediate to our consciousness, very often, is the complex problems of life, family, work, school and human relationships that seem unsolvable, indeed, that seem to get worse the more we try to fix them. What we lack very often is the faith and hope to turn to God with confidence.
Beyond the personal tragedies and sorrows of life, there is our eternal destiny that depends on our being able to transcend our selfishness and to serve God without condition. This is sometimes very painful, but our true happiness depends on our being purified from sin. The Church too in her travail must learn that the Spirit speaks to her in the midst of persecution and crisis. At this juncture in Church history, we need more than ever to have confidence in the Immaculate.
She is the pure chalice, the Holy Grail of God’s presence. Pope Emeritus Benedict’s and Pope Francis’ chalices call this to mind. By the Marian Chivalry of St. Francis and his sons, one seeks to honor this Holy Vessel of God’s presence because She is the Mother of All the Living and has the life of God as Her gift to give.
Our Lady of Lujan, pray for us.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us.
I can personally testify to the power of invoking Our Lady under the title of Undoer of Knots. I was introduced to the devotion about a year ago by a friend, and have found it very powerful to change impossible situations. Thank God again, for Pope Francis!
St. Bernardine of Sienna on the Franciscan Thesis as it pertains to Mary:
For Mary alone, for many thousands of years before She was born, primarily and principally preserved Adam and his posterity in being. Indeed, in virtue of their transgression, Adam and Eve merited not only the penalty of death, but extermination. Divine Justice, which knows no respect of persons, should not have left the sin of man (just as It did not leave the angelic sin) uncondemned in hell. But for the sake of that special reverence and unique love which He had for the Virgin, God kept the world in existence. Because God loved Her above all creatures…the first human beings were preserved from extermination and not returned to nothing, as they deserved. The explanation of this is as follows: The blessed Maiden was in the loins of Adam, and his seed, and the power of producing the Maiden was inherent in our first parents, until it should be realized in the act. For of this Maiden was to be born the Son of God, Jesus, who, existing in Adam only in respect to His corporal substance, was only to be brought forth from the Virgin and from no other person. The merciful God pardoned our first parents and did not annihilate them because, in so doing, the Virgin would not have arisen and, consequently, neither would Christ have been clothed with human flesh…To recapitulate everything in a few words: I do not hesitate to affirm that God effected every liberation and granted every pardon in the Old Testament solely out of reverence and love for the blessed Maiden. In virtue of this reverence and love, God predestined Her, foreordaining from all eternity that She be honored before all His other works.