The Feast of the Dormition of St. Anne

Today is the patronal festival of my parish, the feast of the Dormition of Righteous Anna, mother of the Theotokos. The details we know about her life, and that of her priest-husband, Righteous Joachim, are from sources within the Tradition (though not within the Scriptures). They are often pointed to as one of the great examples of married saints. Their story, like many in the Old Testament, include a time of barrenness and no child, and the promise and gift of a child in the old age. This child, Mary, was chosen of God and appointed to be the mother of the Incarnate God.

Orthodoxy is very “inclusive” when it speaks about salvation. Our salvation, of course, is accomplished and could only be accomplished through Christ Himself. And yet Christ Himself does not become incarnate except at the humble words of Mary, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

By the same token, Mary is not an accident, a random choice from among the virgins of Israel, but is the culmination of Israel’s history, according to the flesh. She stands in the place of Eve, offering to God a “yes,” where our ancestor had offered “no.” In the new life of the Kingdom, she is the mother of all living, just as Eve had been called by that name according to the flesh.

But as Mary is no accident, so her parents are no accident, nor the entire history of Israel. It is all the economy of God, working out the salvation of mankind, through mankind and His grace.

My wife says frequently, “You never really get to know a saint by reading their story. It’s only in calling on them in prayer, asking for their help, that you get to know them.” I know there’s much to be discussed for those who do not understand this part of Orthodox Tradition. But in the 10 years I have served as the priest of a parish whose patroness is St. Anne, I have come to know her well, as a mother who cares for her spiritual children, and who is a great friend and intercessor for the needs of our spiritual family.

I like the fact that my parish is named for a grandmother. My wife reminds me that the parish is named for the wife of a priest (Joachim was a priest in the Old Temple). Good choice on both accounts.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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9 responses to “The Feast of the Dormition of St. Anne”

  1. Stephen W. Avatar
    Stephen W.

    Fr. Stephen,

    May God bless you and your parish many years!!!!!!

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    Thank you!

    This small (150 +) member parish has done a tremendous abount. We have founded at least one other mission, helped another convert into Orthodoxy.

    We have (together with our missions) sent 8 to sent 12 to seminary, either as spouses or as students, with more slated to start this fall.

    What their support of my ministry through the internet accounts for is another number that will never be known.

    We have barely begun. there is so much left to do!

    And I cannot think of a greater joy than being allowed to be part of this ministry. It is truly abundantly above all I could ask or think.

    Truly, I am so far from any worthiness of what has taken place.

  3. Stephen W. Avatar
    Stephen W.

    I was reading that St. Innocent believed, everything that he accomplished in spreading the gospel was all the work of God, yet it is hard to believe anyone being able to do what he did. Sometimes we just sow and plant and let God do the true work. Thanks for the sowing and planting!

  4. Catechumen Avatar

    God grant you MANY YEARS!

    It’s amazing how you start living the Tradition of the Church and things feel less odd. I’ve moved many times. This Pascha I was feeling very alone, because I missed my old parish and did not feel connected to my new parish because of its various traditions and the fact that I was preparing to move again during Bright Week. A friend thought that it would be appropriate for me to have an icon of St. Philip the Apostle as he is the patron of my old parish. Sure enough, the icon arrived on Good Friday. But it’s interesting, because I have a VERY familial relationship with that particular icon. Similarly, there was an icon of St. Gregory Palamas at my old parish that again, I felt like I had a similar relationship with indeed. (He has a scroll of one of my favorite sayings, “There is but one reality that transcends all things.”) Now I am praying to find a patron saint for my Chrismation amongst the women saints of the Church. Such a rich heritage indeed!

  5. November In My Soul Avatar

    Thank you Fr. Stephen for your hard work, your wisdom and your willingness to share. Many years to you, your family and your parish members.

  6. Margaret Avatar

    I thank God for you, Fr. Stephen, and your wife, for leading the way by dedicating your lives to serve Our Lord and His Church, and for encouraging all of us to pray and to trust that Our Lord is truly the Lover of Mankind, and that His Saints truly love us and intercede for us.

  7. Mrs. Mutton Avatar
    Mrs. Mutton

    I must admit that the thing that strikes me most about St. Anna is how she must feel being known as GOD’S GRANDMOTHER. I mean, “grandmother” makes you feel old enough (speaking as one). But GOD’S grandmother?!?! Ah, well, she probably has a good sense of humor, if she’s OK with that one!

  8. Mary Avatar

    St. Anne became a favorite of mine when my son’s wife pressured him to leaving the Holy Orthodox Church, taking four of my seven grandchildren away from the sacraments. I keep an icon of St. Anne in my dining room and when the children are over for a visit, we pray together before her image. Then I quiz the children on who she is and why she is so close and dear to us, Sometimes in my private prayers, I shed big tears and cry out to her, “Oh blessed Grandmother of God, hear a grandmother’s plea and pray to your Grandson to unite my little ones to His Holy Church again,”

  9. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    St. Anne became my patron Saint when I was chrismated Holy Saturday 2007. I am only just beginning to get to know her. I married and had my children in my mid to late 30s, so I identified with Hannah in the OT since I wasn’t sure I could have children. My first, a son, is named Samuel. St. Anne’s story has some similarities with her OT predessessor, and she is the patron Saint (at least in Western tradition) of mothers and housewives, my major role in life right now. The icon of her I have in my home is the same as the one you have used in this post.

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