Icon of Saint Anna holding Virgin Mary made in St Elisabeth Convent, Minsk
On the 7th of August, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Dormition (or Falling Asleep) feast day of Saint Anna, the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus Christ.
Although Saint Anna and her husband, Joachim, are not mentioned in Scripture, we do know much about their lives from the ancient traditions of the Church and from early writings such as the Protoevangelion of James and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary.
Saint Anna was the youngest daughter of the priest Matthan and his wife Mary. She lived in Nazareth and married Joachim, a descendant of King David.
According to tradition, the parents of the Mother of God remained childless until old age and grieved over it. They made a promise to God that they would dedicate their child to His service if He grants Saint Anna to conceive. Soon after their promise, an Angel informed Anna that she would conceive and give birth to the Virgin, who would be blessed above all other women. And just as the Angel declared, she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Mary.
The Mother of God was three years old when her parents Saint Joachim and Anna fulfilled their promise to the Lord and brought her to the temple to be consecrated.
Saint Anna was chosen by God to bear the Most Pure Mother of our Saviour. Such a privilege is not just granted to anyone. One has to be made worthy, and Saint Anna was worthy. She carried her cross of childlessness for many years, and then, when her only and long-awaited daughter was finally born, she offered her to God’s service to the temple.
Saint Anna is the example of faith, hope, love and endless trust in God. She and her husband knew that they had to fully trust God, even though it seemed like He wasn’t answering their prayers. They didn’t lose their faith, they continued to carry their cross.
According to Tradition, St. Anna peacefully died at the age of 70 in Jerusalem, a few years after the passing of her husband St. Joachim and before the Annunciation to the Most-Holy Theotokos.
The day of Saint Anna’s passing is a special feast in the Orthodox Church. During the festive service two special hymns are sung:
We celebrate the memory of the progenitors of Christ, and with faith, we ask their help, that deliverance from every affliction be granted to those who cry out: "Be with us, O God, who in Your good pleasure glorified them."
(Kontakion of Dormition of St. Anna)
Divinely-wise Anna, you carried in your womb the pure Mother of God, who gave life to our Life. Therefore, you are now carried joyfully to the inheritance of heaven, to the abode of those who rejoice in glory, where you seek forgiveness of sins for those who faithfully honour you, ever-blessed one.
(Troparion of Dormition of St. Anna)
There are many icons that depict Saint Anna, including the icon of her Dormition. Sometimes she is portrayed with her husband Joachim, but the most famous icons of the Saint depict her holding the Mother of God with her left arm.
On this feast of Saint Anna, if you would like to send a prayer intention, you can do so by clicking on this link. The community of Saint Elisabeth would be delighted to pray for you during our liturgies.
The courage of the Holy Royal Martyrs, their mercy, steadfast faith and readiness to entrust their fate to the Lord softened the hearts of many and showed the way of the Lord to the generations to come.