Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Holy Annie, Jesus’ Granny

Funny what you remember from school days….. we used to have a RE teacher who was nothing if not amsuing in her teaching of the discipline and I always remember her telling us about Jesus’ grandmother St Anne ( referring to  her as above) We thought it was rather droll – but it took me a while to realise that there isnt any real evidence for her name or the stories attributed to her.

Today ( September 8th,  the church has remembered the bith of Mary, Jesus’ mother – and so given that her mother played quite a part in this – here are some thoughts on St Anne – and there is even a Diddington link….

Homily for The Birth of the BVM – and St Anne

September 8th.

Today in the lectionary the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is remembered.

Traditionally The Nativity of Mary is celebrated nine months after the feast of her conception on 8 December.

The first thing you might say is – surely we don’t know when Mary was born and we don’t know who her mother and father were either.

And if all we consider as reliable sources are the gospel records,  then both those statements are quite true.

We can say for certainty that Mary had a mother and a father – and although neither are mentioned in the gospels, ancient traditions appeared early on in the church’s history – and indeed in Islamic tradition – which suggest who they were.

You may know that in addition to the four gospels which ended up in the canon of scripture, there were many others which didn’t. One is called the apocryphal Gospel of James.

In this writing Mary’s mother is named as Anne ( from Hebrew  meaning favour or grace) and her husband Joachim. The story runs that after years of childlessness, they were visited by an angel who told them that they would conceive a child.

Anne promised to dedicate the child to God’s service. Joachim and Anne are believed to have given Mary to the service of the Second Temple when the girl was three years old.

The story bears a superficial similarity to that of the birth of Samuel, whose mother Hannah had also been childless.

Varying early theologians  of the church have  speculated whether Anne married once or even three times – though  ancient belief, attested to by a sermon of St John Damascene, was that Anne married only once.

In medieval times  Joachim and Anne were often part of artistic cycles of  the Life of the Virgin and Anne would often be included in paintings which depicted Mary’s birth and Mary’s marriage to Jospeph. She is never shown at the Nativity of Christ but is often part of pictures depicting Jesus’ presentation at the temple.

In Western iconography, Anne may be recognised by her depiction in red robe and green mantle, often holding a book. Images may also be found depicting Anne holding a small Mary who in turn holds an infant Christ.

Saint Anne is patron of the following places: Canada; France; Spain; Philippines and.

She is also the Patron Saint of housewives, grandmothers, cabinet makers, and women in labour.

Honouring  Mary’s nativity originated in fifth century Jerusalem as the dedication festival of  a church in Jersusalem – now known as the basilica  of Saint Anne.

By the seventh century it was being kept in both Rome and the eastern church  as the feast of Mary’s birth, and appeared in the church’s  Calendar for 8th September where it has remained.

You may think that any representation of Anne would be many miles from these parts. But in fact in St Laurence Church, Diddington in the south chapel in one of the windows full of Flemish glass is a representation of Anne holding her daughter Mary who in turns holds the infant Christ. Anne holds a book of scripture- and the infant Jesus is shown pointing to a passage.

st anne close up

It dates from the 16th century – and as we have seen it is a subject not uncommon in European imagery.

There for me is a warmth and comfort in this image of the three generations – grandmother, mother and son – a Trinity of togetherness and purpose. We shall never know whether Jesus did indeed know his grandmother and grandfather .But whether they were alive when he was a boy or he inherited stories about them which he cherished, it is good to remember that he came from an ordinary family of God fearing people. They  loved God and passed their faith on to Jesus  through Mary who must have a huge influence on his life.

May we  thank God for this family and thank God for our own families and memories.



Almighty and everlasting God,
who raised fallen humanity
through the child-bearing of blessèd Mary:

grant that we, who have seen your glory
revealed in our human nature
and your love made perfect in our weakness,
may daily be renewed in your image
and conformed to the pattern of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,

September 8, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Nice one paxtonvic, you do indeed have some wonderous glass in your windows, we have only fragments of medieval glass as the iconoclasts clearly paid a visit,

    Comment by Allrevedup | September 9, 2009 | Reply

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