December 9, 2010

The Conception by Saint Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos

The Conception of the Theotokos by St. Anna (Feast Day - December 9)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The righteous Joachim and Anna were childless for fifty years of their married life. In their old age the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each one of them separately, telling them that God had heard their prayers and that they would give birth to a daughter, Mary. Then St. Anna conceived by her husband and after nine months bore a daughter blessed by God and by all generations of men: the Most-holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos.


The Conception of the Most-holy Theotokos by Saint Anna

O Most-glorious God, wonderful and marvelous,
Kind and merciful toward all creation,
The proud dost Thou overturn, the humble dost Thou raise;
Thou Who dost extinguish, Thou Who makest to live,
According to Thy plan, O Creator, Thou canst do all,
According to Thy plan, eternal and divine.
With Thy blessing, the fertile earth brings forth fruit;
By Thy holy word, Thou settest a seal upon the barren.
From one who gives birth, Thou canst take away,
And for the barren one, Thou canst bring forth good fruit.
Thou madest fertile the barren Anna;
Thou didst grant her a holy and noble daughter.
That which was the subject of mockery, Thou didst crown with glory;
The dream of a childless woman Thou didst openly surpass.
The aged woman prayed; her prayer Thou didst accept.
The seal of barrenness Thou didst remove from her body;
Her dead body Thou didst fill with life;
Thou gavest her a Virgin, wondrous in beauty,
And a daughter was born, the Most-holy Virgin,
A Daughter, a Mother, and the Mother of God!
According to Thy plan, O Creator, Thou canst do all,
According to Thy plan, eternal and divine.

St Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She married St Joachim (September 9), who was a native of Galilee.

For a long time St Anna was childless, but after twenty years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, an angel of the Lord announced to them that they would be the parents of a daughter, Who would bring blessings to the whole human race.

The Orthodox Church does not accept the teaching that the Mother of God was exempted from the consequences of ancestral sin (death, corruption, sin, etc.) at the moment of her conception by virtue of the future merits of Her Son. Only Christ was born perfectly holy and sinless, as St Ambrose of Milan teaches in Chapter Two of his Commentary on Luke.The Holy Virgin was like everyone else in Her mortality, and in being subject to temptation, although She committed no personal sins. She was not a deified creature removed from the rest of humanity. If this were the case, She would not have been truly human, and the nature that Christ took from Her would not have been truly human either. If Christ does not truly share our human nature, then the possibilty of our salvation is in doubt.

The Conception of the Virgin Mary by St Anna took place at Jerusalem. The many icons depicting the Conception by St Anna show the Most Holy Theotokos trampling the serpent underfoot.

"In the icon Sts Joachim and Anna are usually depicted with hands folded in prayer; their eyes are also directed upward and they contemplate the Mother of God, Who stands in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is an orb encircled by a serpent (symbolizing the devil), which strives to conquer all the universe by its power."

There are also icons in which St Anna holds the Most Holy Virgin on her left arm as an infant. On St Anna's face is a look of reverence. A large ancient icon, painted on canvas, is located in the village of Minkovetsa in the Dubensk district of Volhynia diocese. From ancient times this Feast was especially venerated by pregnant women in Russia.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Against all hope, the bonds of barrenness are loosed today. For, God has hearkened unto Joachim and Anna clearly promising that they would bear a godly maiden. He who commanded the angel to cry out to her, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you," will be born of her, the infinite One Himself, becoming man.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Today the world rejoices in the conception of Anna, wrought by God. For she bore the One who beyond comprehension conceived the Logos.