Who is Sant’Anna?

Sant’ Anna

Madre della Beata Vergine Maria

26 luglio


Jerusalem, 1st century BC Anna and Gioacchino are Virgin Mary’s parents . Joachim is a shepherd and lives in Jerusalem, an old priest is married to Anna. The two had no children and were an old couple. One day while Joachim is at work in the fields, an angel appears to him, to announce the birth of a child and even Anna has the same vision. They call their child Mary, which means “loved by God”. Joachim brings his gifts back to the temple: together with the little girl ten lambs, twelve calves and a hundred unblemished goats. Later, Mary is led to the temple to be educated according to the law of Moses. St. Anne is invoked as the protector of pregnant women, who turn to her to obtain from God three great favors: a happy birth, a healthy child and sufficient milk to be able to raise it. She is the patron of many jobs related to her mother’s duties, including laundries and embroiderers. Etymology: Anna = grace, the beneficial, from Hebrew.

Emblem: Book Roman Martyrology: Memory of the saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, whose names are preserved from ancient Christian tradition. Despite that of s. Anna there are little news and, moreover, coming not from official and canonical texts, her cult is extremely widespread both in the East and in the West. Almost every city has a church dedicated to her, Caserta considers her like  her celestial Patroness, the name of Anna is repeated in the headings of streets, districts of cities, clinics and other places; some Municipalities bear her name.

The mother of the Virgin, is the owner of several patronages almost all linked to Mary; because she brought the hope of the world into her womb, her cloak is green, for this reason in Britain where they are very devout, she is invoked for the hay harvest; since she guarded Mary as a jewel in a casket, she is the patron saint of goldsmiths and coopers; protects miners, carpenters, carpenters, cabinetmakers and turners.
Because she taught the Virgin to clean the house, to sew, weave, is patron of broom manufacturers, weavers, tailors, manufacturers and traders of household linen and linen.
She is above all the patroness of mothers of families, of widows, of pregnant women, she is invoked in difficult parts and against conjugal infertility.
The name of Anna comes from the Hebrew Hannah (grace) and is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels; the apocryphal gospels of the Nativity and Childhood speak of it, of which the most ancient is the so-called “Protovangelo di san Giacomo”, written not later than the middle of the second century.

Although these writings have not been formally accepted by the Church and also contain heresies, they have ultimately influenced devotion and liturgy, because some reported news are considered authentic and in keeping with tradition, such as the Presentation of Mary to the temple and the Assumption to heaven, as the name of the Longino centurion who struck Jesus with his spear, the history of Veronica, etc.
The “Protovangelo di san Giacomo” narrates that Gioacchino, husband of Anna, was a pious and very rich man and lived near Jerusalem, near the source Probatica Piscina; one day while he was bringing his abundant offerings to the Temple as he did every year, the high priest Ruben stopped him saying: “You do not have the right to do it first, because you have not generated offspring”.
Gioacchino and Anna were spouses who really loved each other, but they did not have any children and by now they would no longer have any age; according to the Jewish mentality of the time, the great priest perceived the divine curse on them, so they were sterile.

The rich old pastor, for the love he brought to his bride, did not want to find another woman to have a child; therefore grieved by the words of the high priest he went to the archive of the twelve tribes of Israel to check if what Ruben said was true and once he found that all the pious and observant men had had children, upset he did not have the courage to go home and he withdrew to one of his mountain lands, and for forty days and forty nights he pleaded God’s help through tears, prayers, and fasts.
Even Anna suffered from this sterility, to which was added the suffering for this ‘escape’ of her husband; then he put himself into intense prayer asking God to grant their plea for having a child.
During the prayer an angel appeared to her and announced: “Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer and you will conceive and give birth and talk about your offspring all over the world”.
So it happened and after a few months Anna gave birth. The “Protovangelo di san Giacomo” concludes: “After the necessary days she purified herself, she gave the baby a stern calling her Mary, that is, ‘beloved of the Lord'”.
Other apocryphal gospels say that Anna would have conceived the Virgin Mary in a miraculous way during the absence of her husband, but it is evident the tracing of another biblical episode, whose protagonist bears the same name of Anna, also sterile and which will be prodigiously mother of Samuel.

Joachim brought back to the temple with the child, his gifts: ten lambs, twelve calves and a hundred unblemished goats.
The oriental iconography highlights making it famous, the meeting at the door of the city, of Anna and Joachim who returns from the mountain, known as the “meeting at the golden gate” of Jerusalem; golden because golden, of which, however, there are no historical information.
The pious parents, grateful to God for the gift received, grew with love the little Mary, who at three years was led to the Temple of Jerusalem, to be consecrated to the service of the temple, according to the promise made by both, when they implored the grace of a son.
After three years Joachim  no longer appears in the texts, while Anna is still mentioned in other later apocryphal gospels, which they say lived until the age of eighty, also it is said that Anna remained a widow married twice, having two children whose progeny is considered, especially in the German-speaking countries, as the “Holy Parent” of Jesus.
The cult of Joachim and Anna spread first in the East and then in the West (also as a result of the numerous relics brought by the Crusades); the first manifestation of worship in the East dates back to the time of Justinian, who had it built in 550 BC. in Constantinople a church in honor of s. Anna.
The affirmation of the cult in the West was gradual and later in time, its image is already found among the mosaics of the triumphal arch of S. Maria Maggiore (5th century) and among the frescoes of S. Maria Antiqua (sec. VII); but its cult began towards the tenth century in Naples and then gradually spread to other locations, until it reached its maximum spread in the fifteenth century, to the point that Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585), decided in 1584 to insert the celebration of s. Anna in the Roman Missal, extending it to the whole Church; but its cult was more intense in the countries of Northern Europe thanks to the book by Giovanni Trithemius “Tractatus de laudibus sanctissimae Annae” (Mainz, 1494).

Joachim was left discretely on the sidelines for long centuries and then inserted in the celebrations on a different date; Anna on July 25th by the Greeks in the East and July 26th by the Latins in the West, Joachim  from 1584 was remembered first on March 20th, then in 1788 on the Sunday of the Octave of the Assumption, in 1913 it was established on August 16th, until reunited in the new liturgical calendar, to his wife on July 26th.
Artists of all time have depicted Anna almost always in a group, like Anna, Joachim  and little Maria, or sitting on a high chair like an old matron with Mary next to her, or in the ‘trinitarian’ pose, that is, with the Madonna and with Jesus child, so as to indicate the three present generations.
Jesus says in the Gospel “From the fruits you will know the plant” and we know the flower and the fruit derived from the ancient plant: the Virgin, immaculate since conception, she who was preserved from original sin was to become the living tabernacle of God made man.
From the sanctity of the fruit, that is, of Mary, we deduce the holiness of her parents, Anna and Joachim .