Presently we find ourselves in the middle of the season of Ordinary Time in the Church. What a beautiful, rich time of growth this is for the Church year! There are so many wonderful feast days of faithful men and women to be found and celebrated. An important but not very well known one vital to Christ's story is the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, observed on July 26th, which this year is this coming Saturday.The above painting from Leonardo daVinci in the Renaissance period fills my mama (and my artist) heart with joy. Such love emanates from St. Anne's face as she watches her daughter as she mothers her son. I'm obviously not a grandmother myself, but I think this piece captures so much of the emotion that a grandmother carries in her heart, of the loving pride overflowing.
Saints Joachim and Anne were the Virgin Mary's parents and thus are Jesus' only grandparents. Though not much is known from written history, they were given feast days early on in the Christian Church. There are many traditions passed through the ages to celebrate these two people, who I can only imagine were utterly faithful to God's plan as they played such an important role in raising God's mother. Wow! What an astonishing thing to think about. They were a degree away from the story we know of as Christ's life here on earth, yet without them, where would we be? God's plans are so beautiful to look back and see how intricately woven they were!
|The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist , Leonardo daVinci.|
St. Anne is found in many more traditions, but we cannot forget St. Joachim, Mary's father and Jesus' grandfather. Both are often found in art (see the painting at the top of the post) with a popular depiction being of Anne and Joachim kissing at the Gate to Jerusalem. The embrace is shown to express the joy that they felt at being told separately by angels that Anne was to conceive after many barren years and bear a daughter who would be consecrated unto God. Tradition tells us that the couple had waited and prayed for twenty years before this happened when Anne was 40.
They are models of marriage and parenting and have often been looked to by the faithful when in need of intercession for infertility. Together they are the patron saints of grandparents.
St. Joachim is the patron of not only fathers and grandfathers, but also cabinet makers and linen traders. He's often depicted in green, for hope, and holding doves (peace), a staff (the Christian word), and a book (linen makers).
St. Anne has many countries and cities under her patronage, most famously Canada and the Brittany region of France. She is also the patron of unmarried women, women in labor, and housewives. St. Anne is also remembered on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
This hymn from the Greek Church celebrates both Mary and her mother:
Hail, spiritual bird, announcing the spring time of grace!
Hail, sheep, mother of the ewe lamb, who by a word conceived the Word, the Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world!
Hail, blessed earth, whence sprang the branch that bore the divine Fruit!
O Anne, most blessed in God, grandmother of Christ our Lord, who didst give to the world a shining lamp, the mother of God; together with her intercede that great may be the mercy granted to our souls.
Let us cry to holy Anne with cymbals and psaltery. She brought forth the mountain of God and was borne up to the spiritual mountains, the tabernacles of Paradise.
|The Vision of St Anne, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. 1759|
Some traditions around the world celebrating St. Anne include festivals in Europe that celebrated all "Annes" or beautiful girls with dancing, music, fireworks, and more! Girls would tie red and green ribbons in their hair to remember St. Anne's green mantle (the color for immortality) and her red dress (signifying divine love).
In France, lobster is traditionally served for the feast meal. As lobster might not be in everyone's budgets, another shellfish or seafood might be more perfect for your celebrations. Check out this recipe from Carrots for Michaelmas for Moules Marinières (Mariner's Mussels). It is also included in her fabulous cookbook and "liturgical year help book" that should really be on your shelf: Feast!: Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year
For dessert, a fruit tart is traditionally served up on French (and French Canadian!) tables. Summer fruits are perfect though plum and apple are the most traditional. Lovely recipes are included in A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family & Faith throughout the Christian Year, another great book to own!
Activities and Crafts
What better way to celebrate the grandparents of Jesus than to honor our grandparents. Children could make a special card or piece of art and give or mail it to their own grandparents.
Another idea would be to make cards for those who are in nursing homes and might not have family that remembers them often.
Have your children say a special prayer for their grandparents. There are some great ones at the Catholic Grandparents Association.
And a Prayer to wrap it up
O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Collect for July 26 from USCCB)
This will actually be the first year our family celebrates this feast day (and we'll be doing so a couple days late due to scheduling and sans shellfish), BUT if you have celebrated in the past or plan to this year, please share how you observe these two great saints in the comments! I'd love some more ideas!
Happy (in advance) Feast of St. Anne + St. Joachim, the grandparents of Our Lord!
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