The Fiber Art Saints: Mary, Untier of Knots

The Fiber Art Saints is a series based in the history of the church and how the fiber arts were used by the Holy Spirit as a means to draw people closer to God. 

As a fiber artist, especially if you work with yarn or thread, you know about knots.

Believe me, there is probably not a knot configuration or gnarled up skein that you have not encountered. Am I right? Bring them on!

Mary, Untier of Knots,    Johan Georg  Schmidtner, c. 1700         Wikipedia

Maybe you are such a whiz with knots that you pride yourself on not using scissors to free your fiber. I can’t say that. Sometimes I do use scissors. However, they are a last resort because who wants to weave in more ends? For this reason, I’m pretty good at getting knots out without a lot of angst. Untying knots are just part of working with yarn.

One thing about untying knots in fiber is that the larger the knot the more fiber the knot involves. With a lot of knots you have to pick through the entire mess to find a good place to begin unraveling.

Like yarn, “knots” can take over aspects of our lives in our dealings with people. You’ve seen how it works – you have probably experienced it yourself.  An ill-timed remark triggers hidden anger; an innocent joke causes someone to hold a grudge; a lifetime of competition between siblings can erupt into bitterness; a parent-child relationship is strained over the past hurts. A marriage turns sour as a result of a betrayal or built-up hurts.  As humans, our feelings are not immune to the faults, sins and foibles of others.

In fact, it was a soured marriage on the verge of divorce that caused a priest to ask the Virgin Mary to untie the tangled knots of the relationship. When the relationship was healed, someone commissioned the painting by Johan Georg Schmidtner shown at right.

Now, as a Protestant, I do not pray to saints, but our Catholic brothers and sisters have a long tradition of venerating the saints. I do not believe, as many Protestants do, that Catholic doctrine encourages the worship of saints, as in idol worship. This may be done on an individual level or in certain congregations, but as a whole Catholics do not idolize saints. “Veneration” simply means to deeply respect or honor. Praying to a saint is like asking for help where ever you can get it. The saints are with God, so why not ask them to pray to God in person on your behalf? Perhaps scriptural backing could be, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses (Against Heresies). In Book III, Chapter 22, he presents a parallel between Eve and Mary, describing how “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 knots of our lives take divine assistance to overcome. Christians have known this for centuries. Like Jesus used everyday examples to illustrate his points, the Church Universal has also done this. As an untier of knots, I can relate to the knots in fiber representing the tangled mess of relationships. Perhaps, next time I have to untie a knot I might ask the Lord to untangle the messes that I know about, whether they are in my relationships or in someone else’s.  Maybe God will use our prayer to unravel the knots in people’s lives to set them free.


One thought on “The Fiber Art Saints: Mary, Untier of Knots

  1. This is fascinating ! I’ve always considered myself as an untier of knots as in yarn knots, but never made the link with solving people’s relationships, which I happen to do all the time. I’ve just spent a week trying to avoid using scissors, until I decided to do myself a favor and stop losing time caring about the knot, which let me to wonder why I cared so much about the knot in the first place !

    Liked by 1 person

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