December 9, 2009
How strange it is that we hardly ever think about Christ’s human family. We Orthodox acknowledge that He took on flesh for our sake from the Theotokos, and respect her accordingly–but what of her mother? Her father? Her family…which is, in a very real and literally human way, the family of God Himself, chose by Him outside of time?
Today, the Church celebrates the Conception of the Theotokos, and honors her mother, St. Anna, who is the grandmother of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. Even in contemplating this, it seems strange to me, that God has a grandmother, just as I do. And if the Theotokos becomes our mother through adoption when we join the Church, being identified with her son and our God, then in some sense, St. Anna becomes our grandmother. Perhaps that is why she is so faithful to hear and answer the prayers and petitions given her–particularly about healing.
St. Gregory Palamas says this of the ancestors of God, of whom He is descended through His mother:
This is why the Lord God said on that occasion of the rejected ones, “My Spirit shall not abide with these men, for they are flesh.” Although the Virgin, of whom Christ was born according to the flesh, came from Adam’s flesh and seed, yet, because of this flesh had been cleansed in many different ways by the Holy Spirit from the start, she was descended from those who had been chosen from every generation for their excellence. Noah, too, “a just man and perfect in his generation,” as the Scriptures say of him, was found worthy of this election.
Observe also that the Holy Spirit makes it clear to such as have understanding that the whole of divinely inspired Scripture was written because of the Virgin Mother of God. It relates in detail the entire line of her ancestry, which begins with Adam, then Zerubbabel, those in between them and their ancestors, and goes up to the time of the Virgin Mother of God. By contrast, Scripture does not touch upon some races at all, and in the case of others, it makes a start at tracing their descent, then soon abandons them, leaving them in the depths of oblivion. Above all, it commemorates those of the Mother of God’s forebears who, in their own lives and the deeds wrought by them, prefigured Christ, who was to be born of the Virgin.
And so it is that today, we celebrate the most immediate of the forebears of the Theotokos, her mother, the righteous St. Anna, and her conception by God’s grace and mercy of the Theotokos–for our salvation and the restoration of mankind.
Troparion of St Anna Tone 4
Today the bonds of barrenness are loosed;/ for God listened to Joachim and Anna./ He promised them – although it was beyond hope -/ that they should bear a divine child./ From this child was born incarnate the Infinite God,/ Who told the Angel to cry to her:/ Rejoice, full of grace; the Lord is with thee.
Kontakion of St Anna Tone 4
Today creation celebrates Anna’s conception which was effected by God./ For she conceived the Maiden who conceived the Word/ Who is beyond all words.