Loosing the Knot of Human Sin: Mary’s Yes to God

Fishing can be a wonderful past-time. It can also be frustrating. Though getting “skunked” presents its disappointment, nothing is more frustrating than the inexplicable, insoluble, and massive knot that can come off the bail. There is no time to undo the undoable. You cut, retie as quickly as possible, and cast again. Fortunately, God has patience with such messes.

The Fall produced its own insoluble knot. Pride, deceit, disobedience, cowardice, and capitulation destroyed the simplicity and clarity of the Garden. The “No!” shouted out by our first parents drew all of humanity and all of creation into the massive tangle of the knot of sin, death, darkness, and alienation. All of human history existed in this tangle of misery. However, we weren’t left in this twisted prison: “But when the fulness of time came, God sent his Son, born from woman…” (Gal 4: 4).

Icon of the Annunciation

March 25 commemorates the Feast of the Annunciation. The Gospel of St. Luke relates the events of the Annunciation in its first chapter. In this account, the damning events of the Fall are undone. Here, Mary, a young woman and virgin, acknowledges the message of the Archangel Gabriel. Though she questions the message, she consents to be Mother, the one who will give birth to the Son of the Most High (thus, the term Theotokos, or “Bearer of God”). St. Luke writes of her response: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord — may it be done to me according to your word!” (Luke 1: 38). Her “Yes!” allows God the Son to enter the human condition as man to loose the knot. By the Incarnation we are delivered from the bonds of sin, death, darkness, and alienation. By the Incarnation we are given holiness, life, light, and relationship.

This feast of the Church represents the beginning of our salvation won for us. Yet, we have to bring the big picture down to the setting of our own lives. Let’s be very honest: we all have our own personal knots all caused by our own “No’s!” shouted at God’s face as we entered into our own rebellions against God’s ways. These knots are hinderances to growth in holiness. These knots bind us and hold us back from a greater formation of Christ in us. To have solution to our knots, we too, as did Mary, say “yes” to our Lord Christ!

Throughout the various liturgical services of the Church, and in our hymns, we have the petition: “Most holy Theotokos, save us!” We understand that Mary, the Theotokos, is not our Savior. She is not God incarnate. She did not offer herself on the Cross for our salvation. She did not rise from the tomb for our salvation. She did not ascend to heaven for our salvation. However, she said “yes” to God and bore him into our presence for our salvation. Thus, the petition, “Most holy Theotokos, save us,” simply means we ask her petition that Christ may more fully enter into our lives of faith for our salvation. Hence, our “yes” to God’s ways — coupled with her petition — lend to the untying of the knots that remain in our souls. “Most holy Theotokos, save us!”

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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