July 25, 2014

A Holy Family Atmosphere (A Homily for the Foremother of Christ, Saint Anna)

St. Anna, the Foremother of Christ (Feast Day - September 9 and July 25)

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Because Christ is the Savior of humanity, and brought about the greatest benefaction to the world, this is why the Panagia, the Mother of Christ, is the joy of all creation. She gave her flesh to Christ, she kept Him nine months in the womb, and she with her love and affection nursed Him and raised Him.

But while honoring the Panagia at the same time we must honor the mother of the Panagia, Saint Anna. For centuries the Church has shown gratitude and honor to those persons who contributed to the glory of God. So, today, we celebrate Saint Anna, the mother of our Panagia, who gave up her soul on this day.

Inasmuch as Saint Anna was the mother of the Panagia, this means she was the Foremother, or the grandmother of Christ according to His human nature. From our experience we know the great love a grandmother has for her grandchildren, as well as the love of a grandchild for their grandmother. In the same way we can understand the relationship of Saint Anna with Christ. She would have shown Him love, she would have helped Him, and the young Christ would have felt a special love and affection for his grandmother.

The father of Saint Anna, the priest Matthan, had three daughters - Maria, Sovin and Anna. From Maria came Salome, who subsequently became a myrrhbearer, from Sovin was born Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Forerunner, and from Anna was born our Panagia. Hence, Salome the myrrhbearer, Elizabeth the mother of the Forerunner, and the Panagia were three daughters of three sisters and were first cousins between them. We see here a holy family and an atmosphere of holy kinship.

Saint Anna was a devout woman, as the Fathers of the Church teach, especially Saint John of Damascus. The name Anna means "Grace", and indeed Grace abided within her. With prayer, fasting and obedience to God she conceived the Panagia. She carried her, she breastfed her with much love, giving her not only her milk, but her life, her prayers. When the Panagia became three years old she was dedicated to the Temple, denying herself her presence, because she knew she was a gift from God. Saint Anna spent all her life with fastings, prayers and almsgiving.

All that we saw previously has a reality, that when we rejoice over a fruit we must recognize that this fruit is the result of much effort and much labor. What takes place at the physical level, also takes place at the spiritual level. We honor a saint, but we must honor also those who helped them become a saint as well as the atmosphere that contributed to this objective. In the instance we are studying today, that of Saint Anna, we see an entire spiritual family, as well as an entire spiritual atmosphere that contributed to the creation of holy personalities and the appearance of our Panagia.

Truly much importance should be given to the atmosphere a family creates! Usually we are ready to blame the children, young people, ignoring the fact that many times we are to blame for not creating the right conditions for them to be raised properly.

However, as long as we consider the Panagia to be our spiritual mother, we should consider Saint Anna to be our spiritual grandmother. And we should ask her to show us her affection, like all grandmothers give. We need her.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΘΕΙΑ ΚΗΡΥΓΜΑΤΑ ΓΙΑ ΤΟ ΘΕΡΙΝΟ ΠΟΙΜΝΙΟ ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ 25 Ιουλίου", July 1999. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.