Tuesday, September 9, 2008

St Anne's story in tradition continues..

by Frances Parkinson Keyes.
Dedication in the Temple

When Mary was three years old, her parents presented her in the Temple in Jerusalem as a gift to the Lord. Their family then lived close by that great center of Jewish life. Even from her first days, Mary as a child seemed to know that her life was to serve God. The temple of God so near her home was a place she loved and there was nowhere else she would rather be. So as a little girl just three years old, her parents watched her ascend the fifteen great steps to the temple courtyard and approach the altar of sacrifice. God was there and she wished to be near him. And that is what her parents, Anne and Joachim wished, that their daughter be near her God. The early story says that mary spent most of her childhood in that holy place.

Mary's Marriage to Joseph

When Mary was 14, the age Jewish girls married at that time, she wondered what her future would be. Her parents knew their child had a special place in God's plan, but what it was they did not know. They began to arrange for her marriage, as customary in those days, and sought advice from the Jewish high priest himself. After praying for guidance, the high priest called every unmarried man from the tribe of David to come to the temple with a branch from the fields and lay it on the altar. The one whose branch flowered, he decided, would marry Mary.

Joseph was among those who came at the high priest's call, but he brought no branch with him. Yet God pointed him out as the one who should be Mary's husband. When Joseph finally placed a branch on the altar, it immediately flowered. The two were betrothed in marriage and Mary returned to her parent's home at Nazareth to wait some months and to prepare for the wedding. While she was there, the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the mother of Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit she conceived the Child. After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth where they would live and bring up their young son. Anne and Joachim visited them there and helped to care for the child. They told Jesus many stories about Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Moses and the ten commandments. They watched Jesus play and walk, they fed him his favorite meals, bathed him, and gently rocked him to sleep. When Anne and Joachim died, or where, we do not know, none of the ancient stories tell us. But a later tradition says, and we can believe that it is true, that Jesus was with Anne and Joachim when they passed away.

The story of Jesus' mother and grandmother as written in the Gospel of James was very popular among early Christians. It had a great influence on Christian worship, art and devotion. Around the year 550 a church in honor of Saint Anne was built in Jerusalem near the temple area on the site where Anne, Joachim and their daughter Mary were believed to have lived. In the 6th century the churches in the East celebrated two Feasts honoring Mary based on the story: Mary's birth and her presentation in the Temple. Since the 7th century the Greek and Russian Churches have celebrated feasts in honor of Saint Joachim and Anne, the conception of Saint Anne, and the feast of Saint Anne. The western churches have celebrated the feast of Saint Anne since the 16th century. HT

Next week...how St Anne's body was taken to France..

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