Friday, October 18, 2013

Gordian Knots

Perino del Vaga (Pietro Buonaccorsi)  (1501–1547 )
Alexander Cutting the Gordian Knot, Study for a Fresco in the Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome
Pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash highlighted with white, squared in black chalk 7-1/2 x 4-7/16 in. (19.0 x 11.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

On campaign in 333 BC, Alexander the Great stopped at the Temple of Jupiter in the city in  Phrygian Gordium

In the temple was  a wagon fastened to a pole by means of a knot. He was told the legend that whoever could unfasten the knot would rule over Asia

He could not unfasten the knot by unravelling it. He drew his sword and cut right through it.

Hence the expression “to cut the Gordian Knot”, to cut right to the heart of a matter without wasting time on the normal methods or on  external details.

Perino`s study was for the decoration of the Sala Paolina in the Castel Sant`Angelo

It was commissioned by Pope Paul III, Alessandro Farnese in 1545. 

He wanted scenes to celebrate his namesake, Alexander the Great (and by implication, himself)

Perino  designed the finished fresco but did not execute it as he died in 1547

Paul III was  remarkable and controversial Pope but achieved much as can be seen from the article in THe Catholic Encyclopedia

From the religious point of view, his achievement was the opening of the Council of Trent

But for the Christian the hardest knots are those of disbelief and sin

A sword and cunning will no longer do

The kingdom we aspire to is not Asia or any part of this terrestial world

With his devotion to Mary as the undoer of knots, Pope Francis said recently of Mary:
"Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56). What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4). 
The “knot” of disobedience, the “knot” of unbelief.  
When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little “knot” is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved.  
At that moment, they break trust with their parents. You know how frequently this happens!  
Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored. Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God.  
When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us.  
These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo. 
But we know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace.  
And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy.  
We all have some of these knots and we can ask in our heart of hearts: What are the knots in my life? “Father, my knots cannot be undone!” It is a mistake to say anything of the sort! All the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience, can be undone. Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, to undo those knots, to change?  
She, as a woman of faith, will surely tell you: “Get up, go to the Lord: he understands you”. And she leads us by the hand as a Mother, our Mother, to the embrace of our Father, the Father of mercies."

Pope Benedict XVI had a similar message in 2012 when he preached to participants of the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan, He quoted St Ambrose:
"St Ambrose who preached and fostered virginity in the Church with surprising intensity, and who in addition promoted the dignity of women, would ask himself “How can we retain Christ?”.  
He would answer the question cited, “Not with knotted ropes, but with the bonds of love and with the affection of the soul” (De Virginitate, 13, 77).  
And in a famous sermon to virgins he said:  
“Christ is everything for us: if you desire to heal your wounds, he is the doctor; if you are parched by the heat of fever, he is a fountain; if you are oppressed by guilt, he is justice; if you have need of help, he is strength; if you are afraid of death, he is life; if you wish for paradise, he is the road; if you flee from darkness, he is light; if you look for food, he is nourishment” (ibid., 16, 99)."