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.