What little we know about Saint Anne comes from the apocryphal Gospel of James (ca. 145 AD), also known as the Protoevangelium of James [PJ]. According to tradition, Anne (Hannah in Hebrew) was born in Bethlehem and married Joachim of Nazareth, both descendants of King David. Joachim is described as “a rich and devout man,” who regularly gave to the poor and “made a double offering to the temple” in expiation for his sins (PJ 1:1). Because Anne was barren, the temple priest rejected Joachim’s sacrifice, as childlessness was interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure. There was no greater misfortune for a Jewish person than to be childless. Had not God promised to His people, through Abraham, “descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore” (Gen. 22:17)? Joachim consequently “went into the desert to fast and pray” for forty days and forty nights (PJ 1:4). But Anne remembered the faith of her ancestors, and with renewed courage prayed: “God of my fathers, bless me: Hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son Isaac!” (PJ 2:4). Her prayer was heard: “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to her and said: ‘Anne, Anne, the Lord has heard your prayer: You shall conceive and bear, and your offspring shall be spoken of in all the world’ ” (PJ 4:1). In an outpouring of faith, she who was to be Mary’s mother immediately consecrated her future offspring. An angel appeared also to Joachim, saying: “Joachim, Joachim, God has heard your prayer. Go on your way, for your wife will conceive” (PJ 4:2). And Joachim offered a thanksgiving sacrifice of ten she-lambs without spot or blemish for the Lord God, twelve tender calves for the priests and elders, and a hundred goats for all the people. He then returned to Jerusalem and embraced Anne at the city gate (PJ 4:3-4).
There was an ancient belief that a child born of an elderly mother who had given up hope of having offspring was destined for great things. Parallels occur in the Old Testament in the cases of Sarah, mother of Isaac and Hannah, mother of Samuel; and in the New Testament in the case of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.
Tradition further narrates that in gratitude to God for the blessing of a daughter, Joachim and Anne vowed to consecrate Mary to God in the Temple as soon as her age permitted it. And they did. Mary was scarcely three years old when, accompanied by her parents, she first set foot in the Temple. Here the noble child was admitted to the elect group of virgins consecrated to God (PJ 7).
It is commonly believed that the Blessed Virgin lost her beloved parents when she was about eleven. Just when she was living a life of angelic happiness in the house of the Lord, Mary had to taste of that chalice which fills the hearts of children with the most human sadness. The precise time of Joachim’s and Anne’s blessed passing is unknown, but the Fathers of the Church affirm that Mary became an orphan when still in the Temple. Yet her faith and hope made her see in the death of her parents the passage from exile to homeland, from earth to heaven. The time of Mary’s presentation in the Temple is unknown. The Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady on November 21st.
Anne, blessed above all others, we, too, bring our reverence, for you have given birth to the girl from whom He will come Who is the basis of all our hope. Blessed, indeed, above all others, and blessed in your offspring! The tongues of all believers sing the praises of your child. Every voice is raised in joy at her birth. How worthy Anne is of praise, most worthy, for she received the message of God’s goodness, and brought forth such fruit that from it would come our Lord, Jesus. — St John of Damascus (8th cent.)
Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival-day in honor of blessed Anne; on whose solemnity the angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God. (Ps. 44: 2) My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. v. Glory be…etc
O God, Who didst vouchsafe to confer grace on blessed Anne that she might deserve to be made the mother of the mother of Thine only-begotten Son, mercifully grant that, as we celebrate her solemnity, we may be assisted with Thee by her patronage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
EPISTLE Proverbs 31: 10-31
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. Who shall find a valiant woman? the price of her is as of things brought from afar off, and from the uttermost coasts. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good and not evil all the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands: she is like the merchant’s ship, she bringeth her bread from afar: and she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens: she hath considered a field and bought it; with the fruit of her hands she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her loins with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good; her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hands to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry; fine linen and purple is her covering. Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Canaanite. Strength and beauty are her clothing: and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue: she hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed; her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches; thou hast surpassed them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her works praise her in the gates.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 44: 8
Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity. V. Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness. Alleluia, alleluia. V. Grace is poured abroad in thy lips: therefore hath God blessed thee forever. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 13: 44-52
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to His disciples: “The kingdom of Heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field; which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kinds of fishes; which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth. So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Have ye understood all these things?” They say to Him, Yes. He said unto them, “Therefore, every scribe instructed in the kingdom of Heaven, is like to a man who is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old.”
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 44: 10
The daughters of kings in thy glory: the queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.
Be appeased, O Lord, we beseech Thee, and look upon the sacrifices here before Thee, that, by the intercession of blessed Anne, who was the mother of Thy Son’s mother, Our Lord Jesus Christ, they may profit both for our devotion and our salvation. Through the same Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Psalm 44: 3
Grace is poured abroad in thy lips: therefore hath God blessed thee forever, and for ages of ages.
Nourished by Thy Heavenly sacraments, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our God, that, by the intercession of blessed Anne, whom Thou didst will to be the mother of Thy Son’s mother, we may be worthy to attain unto everlasting salvation. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever.