On the Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost and the ferial days following it, we pray:
Absolve, quaesumus Domine,
tuorum delicta populorum:
ut a peccatorum nexibus,
quae pro nostra fragilitate contraximus,
tua benignitate liberemur.
Absolve, Thy people from their transgressions,
we beseech Thee, O Lord,
so that through Thy goodness,
we may be set free from the entanglements of those sins
which in our weakness we have committed.
The verb, absolvo, can mean to loosen. The verb, contraho, can mean, among other things, to draw together tightly. Understood in this way, the Collect presents an astute psychology of sin. Sin is a knotty business, leading to hopelessly complex entanglements.
One better understands the old German devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Looser of Knots (Maria Knotenlöserin) in the light of the Church’s prayer. There are, I think, in every life, sinful entanglements that only the patient and gentle hands of the Immaculate Virgin Mary can loosen.