Steve Taylor Arts
And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
— Revelation 12:1-2
The advocation of Mary, the Mother of God, as an untangler of knots appeared in Germany during the early 18th century in the midst of a nobleman’s faltering marriage. In praying to our Lady, the man and his wife, being chased by the disaster of divorce, instead came safely to reconciliation, the knot of impasse undone.
The revered original painting by Johann Schmidtner, commissioned to commemorate the apparition of our Lady’s intervention, depicts the woman of crystal serenity releasing knots from a white ribbon.
The ribbon of life may be long, the disentangling of knots a mysterious process, but of finite length. Those on the sojourn of transformation are sometimes focused on one knot, a sin of particular persistence – deep attachment to disorder or inebriation, perhaps. But how that one big knot got formed was often the result of other smaller, even unrelated, knots.
The complete transference from fixation on self onto others and God is the winding ascension called conversion, unknotting sinful inclinations one at a time. Without God, it does not happen, and without grace and without the mediatrix of grace (Mary), the seeker travels nowhere.
The remedy of Mary, Queen of Heaven and Mother of Grace, who loves every human where they are right now, just as they are, who has been called subduer of the unbelieving, comfort of the afflicted, medicine of the sick, strength of the weak, refuge of sinners, harbor of the wretched, has watchful care over every single human being. She looms ever silent, gentle, steadfast like a small candle with an inconsumable wick. She does all her hidden work in a quiet way.
Let’s imagine that the Empress who undoes has three helpers, three assistants, three angels from Heaven.
The cosmos is composed simply of the Seen and the Unseen. The domain of the Unseen is unapparent to some, those who may have had no religion or spiritual formation as children. A preponderance of souls today believe they always and only encounter a visible universe.
Let’s imagine that one assistant from Heaven is the great angel Michael (literal meaning “Who is like God?”), the marshal of Heaven, who sends forth into the creature realms in a mission to locate active sources of evil. He is well appointed in a raiment of firelight, armed with a flaming sword. He brandishes Holy Fire, the power that penetrates and dispels darkness. This Fire also cleanses, truer than water. St. Michael exposes like lightning works that are secret and false.
Michael points his sword into the skull of the demon serpent, present in every addiction and compulsion, every unfreedom and slavery. No wonder we cannot overcome the oppressions – they are unseen. But the spirits cannot remain undetected, their voices are plain as day coming internally to each of us. Michael’s light shows us the identity of the voice of the unwelcome, tempting ‘guest’, the unclean spirit. At the scene of soul attack, Michael is the first responder, whom Jesus called the “greatest warrior of Heaven.” His eyes are like lasers which turn every dark thing out of hiding. No source of destruction evades his gaze – his searching, probing incandescence. Yet he can do no act of rescue without a human request of need, wielded with faith. See the “Prayer to St Michael the Archangel”.
Another assistant – the angel Raphael, whose name means “medicine of God”. When a seeker asks, “O good companion, tell me what I should do to proceed on the right way at all times?” St. Raphael responds:
“Always walk on the banks of the great river of Grace. In that way you will always be able to obtain Grace, under the sun of the Charity, on the green fields of hope, tirelessly picking the white flowers of faith to make yourself immortal crowns with them.
“The sun of Charity will be light and warmth for you in order to comprehend God and love your brothers and sisters more and more. The flowering fields of hope will attenuate bumps against the rough stones of selfishness and rationalism which bring you so much suffering, and you will be able to endure along the way as far as your goal, which is God. The white flowers of Faith will perfume your heart, displeased by so many things, cover your wounds, and above all, tell you that God is the Father and Love and that everything He promises is true and everything He has promised will be fulfilled. If they become beaded with tears and sprinkled with blood, they will be even more precious in the eyes of God. And when the Enemy, in the form of a fish or of seduction of every kind seeks to devour or seduces you, call me and pray. It is so sweet to come to the little Tobits! And it is so sweet for God to bend over those calling upon Him.
“I have taught you the same way by which I led Tobit. A peaceful way because the eyes of God are upon it. A safe way, though not devoid of snares, because it is watched over by defenders sent by God. A triumphal way because it proceeds among virtues overseen by the Eternal Sun and flanked by Grace, which is all.”
— The Notebooks, 1945–1950
Raphael is the angel who walks with us on earth, a companion on the road of healing from the wounds of evils. He is depicted in sacred art garnering a fish, a medicine-bearing prize from murkiest waters. To catch such a fish would require a certain courage to go into the dark, the deep. Acquiring awareness of the invisible wound at last destroys its secret power. He is dressed in an emerald tunic, symbol of pure eternal hope and healing, girded with a jeweled belt, symbol of the incomparable wisdom that comes from brave encounters of self knowledge, with all hidden wounds, the heroic realm of the unseen, what is so naturally and commonly repressed or denied. His long chestnut hair, is it not like the Fair One from Nazareth who shed Holy Blood? He leads by the hand with a staff of immutable gold, since no human flesh can alone discern the way into the higher mystery of Spirit.
But who today will be led, in a world where the individual crowns themself sovereign and leads themself through their own small universe? Only those can be led who are unafraid of vulnerability, humility, and divine majesty.
The bottom of the painting of calm invincible Mary reveals the helper Raphael leading the sack-clothed penitent through desert to the eternal purity. Raphael, who also leads the traveler Tobit to a bride who’s previous seven suitors perished in the chamber of the nuptial night because of lusts and absent prayers, leads the children of light today to embrace true vocation, to embrace matrimony, sexual faculty’s truest destiny.
And after the celestial angel of rescue, Michael, and the terrestrial angel of healing, Raphael, have been allowed to conduct their holy work, we are greeted by a third angel, Gabriel, whose name means “God is my strength”. This worshipping angel abides in God by honoring Him perpetually, with unceasing prayer and praise, winning also by the same efforts for the vulnerable human His protection and safety. Gabriel dons a robe of incomparable splendor stitched with pearls and diamonds, bows in meekness holding a clutch of lilies, symbol of the cleansed. The angel ‘after-the-rain’ is colored like rose quartz, blush of love’s perfection.
Mary meanwhile stands on dead ash in the bowl of black moon with a snake underfoot, in perfect peace. The Immaculata. The Inviolata. Standing in and standing on uncleanness?! In bare feet?!
The Christian, by the sacrament and word of Christ, will by grace – the divine assistance – conquer the adversary of evil, even if the weakness itself is never internally taken completely away. Is there any further doubt about the image, professing the triumph of purity over filth, or the abolition of all fear?
Mary is chemised in turquoise, the exquisite gem blue of salt sea, and a rhodochrosite wrap, which is both mystical rose and redeeming Blood of her Child Who is the purification. She grips tenderly a ribbon of frightful knots stained with the leachates of evil, whence it soon becomes new, smooth, supple, and luminous. Salvation! Freedom! Jesus!
... and on her head, a crown of twelve stars ...
— Revelation 12:1
In the biblical realm, twelve represents not only the perfect composition of the chosen tribes and the twelve gates that exist in the supernal city, but also the eternity of things conceived by God the Father. The biblical twelve represents aspects such as: good governance, service, power, protection, choice of life, as well as production and multiplication. When the deepening of understanding is allowed, we see in the number twelve the perfection of choice for a life path. With ‘the chosen ones’, The Twelve, Jesus chose lovers and believers in the salvific plan of God. They were summoned and invited, not only to serve, but also to produce and reach the farthest corners of the world, to the most isolated people, to heal and unite their hearts to the heart of the Eternal Father.
Mary is the fear-annihilating countenance of permanent victory, the acme of incorruptibility, the unassailable security of absolute silence, the indelible peace of effortless contemplation.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Repeatedly fixate on inner quiet, the power of letting God always act.
Are her attributes real? Look at her! Gaze until you believe in Grace. Grace whose name is Jesus, her son, the One to whom this Lady leads you!