CONCEPTION OF ST. ANNE

 

 

Joachim and Anna were without children.  In Jewish tradition, childlessness was seen as a curse from God.  When Joachim went to the Temple to bring an offering, he was publicly reproached by the elders.  In shame, Joachim went off to the desert to pray.

 Anna, fearing Joachim was dead and lamenting her shame at being childless, was weeping and praying in the garden.  An angel appeared to her and told her she would have a child.  She was so overjoyed, she promised to dedicate the child to the service of the Lord.

 At the same moment, an angel appeared to Joachim to tell him that Anna would have a child.  Joachim got up and ran immediately back to Anna.  They met each other at the Temple Gate and embraced with love.

 Anna knew immediately that she would bear a daughter “whose name would be proclaimed throughout the world and through whom all nations would be blessed.”

 The feast celebrates two main ideas:

. Mary was conceived without sin because God was preparing her to be the Mother of His Son Jesus.

. The vocation of marriage lived in love reflects the love of God for all creation.

  


THE  ICON

 The love between Joachim and Anna is revealed to us through the Icon.  Their embrace shows their devotion to each other and to God.

 Both Joachim and Anna incline their heads to each other and their faces touch as a symbol of their reverence for each other.

 There are two houses in the Icon, one behind Joachim and one behind Anna.  Both the doors and windows are wide open symbolizing the openness between husband and wife and the openness between humanity and God.

 A red banner draped between the roofs connects the two houses: another symbol of separation overcome—between man and woman, but also between humanity and the Creator.

 Joachim means “The Lord will judge”

 Anna means “Divine Grace”

 


 THE  READINGS

 The Epistle is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (4:22-31).  In this reading, Paul writes about the two sons of Abraham.  One was born of Hagar, the slave girl, and the other was born of Sarah, the free woman.  Paul tells us that the son of the free woman was born because of God’s promise.  Mary represents the free woman and Jesus is the promise of God, the Messiah, the One who sets us free.

 

In Luke 8:16-21, Jesus tells us that his mother and brothers are those who hear and obey the word of God.  Although to us it may sound like a slur against Mary, it really is a commendation.  Mary hears the word of God and obeys it.  This is also a command to us, we must hear the word of God and obey it in order to be part of God’s family.

 


 TROPAR (Tone 4)

 Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed * for God has heard the prayers of Anna and Joachim. * He promised against all hope that they would give birth to a divine virgin * from whom the Indescribable would be born as man, * the same who ordered the Angels to sing to her, * “Hail, O Woman full of grace, the Lord is with you!”

 KONDAK (Tone 4)

 Today the universe rejoices, * for Anna conceived in a manner caused by God, * and because the one born to her * will give birth to the Word.

 


 DID YOU KNOW?

     Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, ‘ex cathedra’ which means it is infallible.  All Catholics believe that Mary, as the Mother of God, was granted a special grace by God and was conceived without original sin.

     The Virgin Mary was always filled with every blessing and gift of the Holy Spirit in whose grace she certainly grew throughout her life.  Though born without original sin, according to the view of the Eastern Fathers, she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.

 

   In our Church we celebrate the Conception and Birth of three people:  St. John the Baptist, Mary, the Mother of God and Jesus Christ.

 

     The Conception of St. John the Baptist is celebrated on September 23 and his birth date is June 24.

 

     In the Byzantine Rite, the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 9 and the birth date of Mary is September 8.

 

     March 25, the Annunciation, is the Conception date for Jesus and his birth date is December 25.

 

     The theological significance of these dates is that only Jesus, who is the Son of God, has a perfect nine months between Conception and Birth.

 


  HOW CAN I CELEBRATE THIS FEAST IN MY HOME OR CLASSROOM?

 

.  Invite an older couple in to talk about their married life together.

 

.  Tell your children about the joy you felt when you found out that you were going to have a child.

 

.  Take the children to a senior’s home or lodge to visit with the residents.

 

.  Display the icon of the feast day in your home or classroom.

 

.  Attend liturgy at your parish on this day as a class or family.

 

.  Pray in gratitude for the gift of Mary that God has given to the world.

 

.  Buy a lily to place by the Icon of Mary in the Church, your classroom, or your home.  The white lily is the symbol of purity often associated with Mary.

 


 

FEAST  OF  THE  CONCEPTION  OF  SAINT  ANNE

 

     The feast widely known as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated in the Eastern Church on December 9 as the Feast of the Conception of Saint Ann. This feast commemorates Saint Anne’s conception of Mary, the Mother of God.  In the United States of America the Ukrainian Catholic Church celebrates this feast on December 8.  The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the National Feast for the Roman Catholics in the USA, and our bishops have decided to celebrate the feast with them.  This will change in 2007 when the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States of America will again celebrate teh feast on December 9.

 

     The writings of the early Church tell us that Mary’s parents, Joachim and Ann, had lived devoutly in marriage for fifty years and had prayed earnestly for a child.  The Lord God answered their prayers by allowing Ann to conceive a child who would be the mother of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. 

 

     The Ukrainian Catholic liturgical tradition venerates the Most Holy Mother of God as "All-Immaculate" and "Most Immaculate”.  We say that she was immaculately conceived in the sense that, from the moment of her conception, she was free of all sin and had no propensity to sin.  (Mankind’s propensity to sin was one of the legacies of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.)  The Western Church, on the other hand, defined the Virgin Mary's "Immaculate Conception" to say that she was, from the first moment of her conception, preserved free from the "stain of original sin."

 

     The difference between the Western and Eastern traditions in this regard lies precisely in the nature of Original Sin itself. The West follows St. Augustine’s view that we inherit not only the effects of Original Sin (illness, pain, death, propensity to sin), but also the "stain" of the sin itself. The Eastern Church places its attention on the process by which God shares His divine nature with human beings. In choosing disobedience, Adam broke his union with God, making it impossible to fulfill his nature.  This was the Original Sin: Adam’s rejection of the only true life given to him by God. (It was only through Christ that humanity could be reunited with the Father.) The Eastern Fathers understood Original Sin only in terms of the inherited impact of this sin upon humanity. They would see it as impossible for someone to inherit the actual stain or guilt of a sin committed by another, even if it was the forefather Adam.

 

     We are therefore not born with any stain of a sin committed by someone else, but only with the effects of that sin.   Adam’s personal sin resulted in death for all his descendants, the experience of concupiscence and the propensity to be tempted and to sin. According to the faith of the Eastern Church, the Mother of God never had any sin, original or actual, on her soul.  The Church has always believed that Mary was preserved from original sin by a "singular grace and privilege" given her by God "in view of the merits of Jesus Christ" as Redeemer of the human race. Mary, like every other human being, needed the redemptive benefits of Christ; but, in anticipation of what God did for all through Christ, she alone was preserved from original sin "from the first moment of her conception," and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

 

     The Virgin Mary was always filled with every blessing and gift of the Holy Spirit in whose grace she certainly grew throughout her life.  Though born without original sin, according to the view of the Eastern Fathers, she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.