Posted by: anna | August 7, 2009

Dormition of Righteous Anna

We on the Old Calendar are preparing for the Dormition Fast, which will start next Friday. It is foreshadowed today by the feast of the Dormition of Righteous Anna, mother of the Mother of God. Here is what Fr Stephen of Glory to God For All Things has to say about this, his parish feast.

The most important point for me in Fr Stephen’s note comes from his wife: ‘You never really get to know a saint by reading their story. It’s only in calling on them in prayer, asking for their help, that you get to know them.’ A saint’s story may be an introduction to them – and as we move through the yearly calendar it’s as though the saints move forward in turn to introduce themselves to us, who in this earthly life can’t deal with even a brief introduction to more than a very few of the great cloud of witnesses at a time. But this is only the beginning – and as these pages have already demonstrated more times than not, often the story of a saint’s life only survives as a few bare and often incongruous details. As just a story about a person, they’re often unsatisfactory. Fortunately, that is not what they are for. May the stories of saints’ lives, and images of their icons, be only the first step toward coming to know them.

I notice an important difference between the western and eastern traditions about St Anna (or Anne) – the Orthodox tradition is clear that she reposed before the Annunciation. So she was not an earthly grandmother to the child Jesus. The western tradition , especially in the later Middle Ages, includes depictions of a group known in German as the Annaselbdritt, the Virgin and Child with St Anne, which is sometimes interpreted as mirroring western depictions of the Trinity. I haven’t seen an Orthodox icon with this grouping – there are lots of icons of St Anne holding the Mother of God, closely mirroring icons of the Mother of God with Christ. This bears more investigation about the different understandings of the earthly ancestors of Christ. But book-larnin’ is nothing if not surrounded by and part of prayer.

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 honor you, ever blessed one.
Holy St Anna, pray to God for us.


  1. Wow, I love what Father Stephen's Matushka said. Very good point.

    I also enjoyed the contrast between the Western and Eastern understanding of St. Anna. Very good point (and beautiful paintings, thank you)

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