Eastern Christians have had a long devotion to Saint Ann since the early centuries of the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Church. Ecclesial literature attests to this fact.
On the human level, who doesn’t want to know the genealogy of Our Lord and Savior? The human family of Jesus is very important to us, especially His lovely grandmother. For some, like Emperor Constantine, it was important to memorialize the birth of the Theotokos by building a church in the forth century over the house where Ann gave birth. In the sixth century Emperor Justinian built a beautiful church in honor of Saint Ann in Constantinople. With the Church’s definition of Mary’s divine maternity at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431 Ann became an object of devotion –she became a keen witness, a point-person, if you will, to Jesus.
The Commemoration of Saint Ann
Saint Ann is liturgically commemorated three times a year by Eastern Christians: September 9, her birth, December 9, her conception of Mary, July 25, her dormition.
The Church’s Liturgy teaches us through the singing of the Kondakion:
She carried in her womb none other than the one who gave birth to our life, and, for this, she was considered worthy of the eternal banquet. There, she rejoices forever with the blessed of heaven, and, with them, she prays unceasingly for us all.
The Saint’s Patronage and Her Witness
One of the cardinals of Quebec honored Ann as the patron saint of all Canadians. However, Ann’s patronage is wider and deeper than only for the citizens of Canada. She is invoked by seamen, merchants, carpenters, miners, workers of all kinds. Moreover, Saint Ann is the patron saint for children, young people, those preparing for marriage, married women, pregnant women, educators, lonely persons, people who have made a special consecration to the Lord, the sick and dying, and healthcare professionals. Indeed, Saint Ann is concerned with those who practice charity and mercy.
In the bible
The canonical Scriptures are silent on person of Ann, but the Scriptures neither reveals too much of Jesus’ immediate family nor many of the events of his life before the age of thirty when he began his public ministry.
Ann’s name is revealed mainly in Tradition and in the Proto-gospel of James and Pseudo-gospel of Matthew. These works are not part of the official Bible and they are not used used in the Liturgy; James’ work dates back to the first century and considered to be apocryphal and not equal to the four gospels or the writings of Saint Paul and other New Testament books. The Church acknowledges that the apocryphal books reveal aspects of the faith and other details of divine revelation. Church Fathers often quote from apocryphal works, and the artists have been known to use them, too. In the end, we would not know the names of the grandparents of Jesus, Ann and Joachim, without the Proto-gospel of James. The importance of the genealogy of the grandparents lies in the fact that they determine Jesus’ heritage of being of the House of King David of the tribe of Judah; they lived in Nazareth of Galilee and who were register citizens of Jerusalem.
The Church Fathers have a lot to say about the person of Saint Ann. Among them we can note Saint Andrew of Crete (+720) Saint John of Damascus (8th Century) and Saint Peter the Wonderworker (9th/10th centuries). Later saints and blesseds lay claim to knowledge of Ann, in particular: Blessed Benvenuta, O.P. (13th Century), Saint Bridget (14th Century), Saint Colette (15th Century), and Saint Fulbert of Chartres, among others.
Saint Fulbert teaches us that Ann is the mirror that reflects all goodness.
Saint Peter the Wonderworker bears quoting:
“About to praise this great saint, Ann, I am afraid I might seen to attempt the impossible, a task above my ability. But, I insist on glorifying Saint Ann, whose name means ‘grace’, that is the one who, through her daughter, fills the whole world with countless graces, she who was deemed the most righteous under the old law the holiest in the supernatural world, the one whose irreproachable conduct made her worthy of seeing the law give way to grace, an event that so many prophets had vainly been waiting for. She did not only witness this event, she took part in it.
“Through her daughter, Ann, has seen the rising of the Sun whose dignity and splendor eclipse any other sun. From her daughter flew an abundant river that was to irrigate the desperately parched earth. Through he daughter, she gave us the Creator and Lord of the universe.
“Ann can boast to be an offspring of Abraham, but she surpasses him in glory.
“Ann has outshone all those who strive for perfection.
“What other woman has become the mother of the Mother of God, the immediate ancestor of the Lord.”
In our weekly parish Divine Liturgy we sing a hymn to Saint Ann thus reminding us –and her– of her role in seeking for us the graces we need to enter into worship of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) free from sin.