St Anne

Anne is by ancient Christian tradition the mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  There is no reference in the Bible to Anne or, in fact, to any of Mary's ancestors.  The earliest reference to Anne is in the Infancy Gospel of James, an apocryphal book written in Greek around the year 145.  The account in the Infancy Gospel is that Anne and her husband Joachim of Nazareth were childless, and took this as a sign of God's displeasure.  Anne was even despised by her own servant.  While Joachim spent 40 days in the desert praying for a child and fasting, Anne asked: 'God of my ancestors, bless me and hear my prayer, just as you blessed our mother Sarah and gave her son Isaac to her.'  An angel appeared to her and said: 'The Lord God has heard your prayer. You will conceive and give birth and your child will be spoken of everywhere people live.'  Nine months later, Anne gave birth to a daughter named Mary.  According to the Infancy Gospel, Anne was reluctant to give Mary up for schooling in the Temple and managed to put it off until the girl turned three.  At that stage, Mary was handed over to the Temple to be educated there for 12 years.    

 
Leonardo Da Vinci,  St Anne

Leonardo Da Vinci, St Anne

It may be that the Infancy Gospel carries an early Christian memory of who Mary's parents were.  However, the story of the birth of Mary to Anne owes much to the Old Testament account of the birth of the prophet Samuel to Hannah (the Hebrew form of Anne): 1 Samuel 1.1-28.  The obvious debt that the story of Anne owes to the story of Hannah means that we may have little, if any, actual historical detail of Mary's birth in the Infancy Gospel.  However, the story of Anne reworks and gives the same message as the biblical accounts of Sarah (to whom Anne refers), Rebecca and Hannah.  She is a childless woman. She is despised in her culture and considers herself unworthy - but she is a persistent and faithful woman and has an important part in God's plan for the world.  We also do know that Jesus had a grandmother through Mary, and the name by which early Christians knew her was Anne. 

st anne @ St Anne's

When an Anglican church was being established in Highfields in 1991, the people considered the possibility of dedicating the church to St Peter, St Catherine or St Anne.  The church was dedicated to St Anne, and that was renewed when the new church building was dedicated in 2016.  The Feast of St Anne is 26 July, and we celebrate that at St Anne's Church, Highfields, on the closest Sunday.  Images of St Anne in artwork often depict Anne with her daughter Mary and grandson Jesus, or teaching Mary how to read.  We therefore take the opportunity on St Anne's Day to celebrate families, and especially to recognise the contribution of grandparents in families.