Saint Anne, pray for me

From next Sunday’s Gospel: But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Luke 12:19-21

What does this mean, “rich toward God”? When I pay attention to the present moment, I feel God lavishing riches upon me. Paying attention, I suppose, is letting myself be rich toward God.

In this moment:
– the scent of earth still clinging to me after weeding the lavender.
The still cool air on my skin.
Ginger tea warming my throat.
The robin’s clear melody.
First shafts of sunshine pouring through the trees on the east side of house.

And a memory of yesterday: the lively baby girl playing in her baptism water at St. Anne’s Church. Beloved St. Anne’s parish (where I was invited to baptize the child of one of the “children” there, and where I served for 5 years as pastor in the ’90’s). And beloved St. Anne herself.

Anne and Joachim at the Golden Gate, detail, Giotto

Today is the feast day of St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus. He must have had a grandmother!  She might as well have been named Anne. What would she be like? The apocryphal Protoevengelium of James, a sort of Christian midrash circa 150 C.E., embellishes the story of Mary and her parents, Joachim and Anne.

Joachim served in the Temple but because he had not issued seed for the sons of Israel, was suddenly barred from his duties. Distraught and humiliated, Joachim storms off to the desert with his flocks. Anne, “twice widowed,” she says, barren and now abandoned, puts on mourning. But her maid Judith reproaches her, so Anne puts on her wedding dress instead and goes out to pray under a laurel tree. God hears her, and, as in all the Biblical stories of long barrenness or difficult pregnancies, an angel tells Anne that this child will be extraordinary. Joachim also receives a message from God and comes back to Jerusalem from the desert and husband and wife run into one another’s arms at the Beautiful Gate, Anne’s arms clasped around Joachim’s neck.

One supposes they immediately rush home and go to bed.

Notice the movement - Anne rushing into Joachim's arms in the contemporary icon by Heiko C. Schlieper

The story continues with the birth of their child, a little daughter they name Mary, who they dedicate to God, bringing her to the temple at the age of three. Welcoming her, the priest puts her on the third step of the altar, and she begins to dance, charming all the elders. She remains in the Temple until she’s twelve, and then, worried that as she’s soon to become a woman, she might pollute the sacred place (as if her womb ISN’T the holy of holies! but never mind) the priests invent a sort of contest to marry her off. Joseph arrives, not really knowing what this is all about, but his staff produces a live dove which lands on his head. That’s enough of a sign for the priests who place Mary into his care despite his strong protests.

Then there’s the dangerous degrading scandal of her pregnancy. And the trip to Bethlehem. The birth of Jesus. The visits of the shepherds and magi. And then Herod’s paranoia and rage. The Protoevengelium of James ends with the story of Elizabeth’s miraculous escape with her son John (the Baptist). Herod’s soldiers invade the Temple, specifically looking for the baby John, and murder his father Zachariah.

After Mary’s father Joachim dies, Anne lives to a grand old age and apparently outlives several other husbands. I don’t remember the source of these further legends. But it’s fun to think about.

Even this 14th century mosaic from the Chora Museum in Turkey conveys the sense of rushing into each other's arms

And now, to this day ahead of me, and trying to be present in the moment. Allowing God’s riches to penetrate my mostly hardened heart and thick layered shells over my brain. Blessed, beautiful, lively St. Anne, so rich toward God you wear your wedding dress to go and pray,  pray for me!  Help me to be rich toward God.

One Response to “Saint Anne, pray for me”

  1. claire Says:

    Allowing God’s riches to penetrate my mostly hardened heart and thick layered shells over my brain. Ha! I can certainly relate to this!

    Thank you for bringing intelligence and depth and beauty and knowledge to your blog and your website.

    What a treat you are!

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