July 25, 2010

The Relics of Saint Anna, Grandmother of our Lord

According to tradition, Anna, the ancestor of God, lived for sixty-nine years, and her spouse Joachim, for eighty; according to one account, Saint Joachim died two years before Saint Anna. The Theotokos had been orphaned of both her parents already when she was eleven years of age, when she was living in the Temple (see Sept. 8 and Nov. 21). Saint Anna is invoked for conceiving children, and for help in difficult childbirth.

According to Procopius, during the reign of Justinian the Emperor (527-565), a church was built to honor Saint Anna in Constantinople. Emperor Justinian II (685-695; 705-711) restored her church, since St. Anna had appeared to his pregnant wife. It was at this time that her body and maphorion (veil) were transferred to Constantinople. The canon of the Greek Office of St. Anna was composed by St. Theophanes (d. 817), but older parts of the Office are ascribed to Anatolius of Byzantium (d. 458). Her Dormition is celebrated in the East on the 25th day of July, which may be also the day of the dedication of her first church at Constantinople or the anniversary of the arrival of her relics in Constantinople. The relics of St. Anna were brought from the Holy Land to Constantinople in 710 and were still kept there in the Church of Hagia Sophia in 1333. Her primary feast day in the Orthodox Church is on September 9th.

The oldest and most revered Skete on Mount Athos is dedicated to "Yiayia" (grandmother), as the monks at the Skete of St. Anna affectionately refer to her. Inside the main church of the Skete is treasured the left foot of St. Anna. The left foot of St. Anna was brought to the Skete of St. Anna by Symeon the Righteous on 26 October 1666, according to a codex of the Skete. The relic is incorrupt and works many miracles, especially helping childless mothers with pregnancy issues. Also on Mount Athos, at the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou, is treasured the entire right leg of Saint Anna. The Holy Monastery of Stavronikita treasures her hand. The Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch also have a portion of her relics, as well as Kykkos Monastery on the island of Cyprus and various Catholic and Orthodox parishes throughout the world.

Below is a video of the incorrupt holy relics of St. Anna at the Skete of St. Anna on Mount Athos. The blessed Elder Anthimos introduces the relics and speaks of the miraculous nature of her relics which are incorrupt now for over 2,000 years. Elder Anthimos lived at the Skete of St. Anna for around 70 years and passed away in 1996. His remains are still treasured there and his skull gives off a beautiful fragrance of divine grace.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Godly-minded Anna, thou didst give birth unto God's pure Mother who conceived Him Who is our Life. Wherefore, thou hast now passed with joy to thy heavenly rest, wherein is the abode of them that rejoice in glory; and thou askest forgiveness of sins for them that honour thee with love, O ever-blessed one.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
We celebrate now the mem'ry of Christ's ancestors, while asking their help with faith, that we may all be saved from all manner of tribulation as we fervently cry aloud: Be thou with us, O Lord our God, Whose pleasure it was to glorify them both.