The Conception of Saint Anna when she conceived the Most Holy Mother of God
Rank: All-Night Vigil. Nativity Fast. Day of fast.
Galatians 4:22-31; Luke 8:16-21
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Upon first reading, today’s Gospel passage from St. Luke has seemingly no relationship to today’s feast of the Conception of St. Anna through which she conceived the Mother of God, known to our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters as the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. If we seek to discern a connection between these brief six verses and the feast it appears to be an obscure one, one that is not entirely understood by us. One might say that the meaning is somehow hidden. As Christians we do not believe as the ancient gnostics did, and some other religions do, in secret knowledge known only to a privileged few. No. We believe and confess that from the time of Pentecost and in this era of the Church that all things necessary to salvation have been revealed by the light of Christ through the inspiration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is our duty as baptized Christians through prayer, meditation on the Holy Scriptures, and through the sacramental life of the Church to come to an ever fuller understanding of our faith as it has been revealed. So the relationship between Luke’s Gospel and today’s feast is not so obscure, not so hidden, since we by the grace of God know of what the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke writes.
“For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” The Conception of St. Anna is not recorded in Holy Scripture but rather comes to us from other sources within the Holy Tradition of the Church. The Church has received this as truth given that the Church recognizes Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition as two sources of authority for our Catholic faith. This is a beautiful thing in that God’s eternal foreknowledge is revealed to us. God Himself knew that His Incarnate Son Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ would take flesh from the Virgin Mary and through the Incarnation bring about our salvation, our reconciliation with God. God knew that St. Anna would conceive the Mother of God. God knew that St. Anna and St. Joachim would cooperate with Him and His eternal will. This eternal will is revealed in the Old Testament especially in the prophesies of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Habbakuk which speak of the Mother of God as the closed gate of the temple, of the virginity of the mother of Emmanuel, and as the mount unhewn.
Yet perhaps at the time of Anna’s conception in the last decades of the Old Testament era there was little on which to remark: no angelic visitation, no recorded prophetic utterance by St. Joachim, and on the surface seemingly no mystery. Yet, what may have appeared hidden at that moment of St. Anna’s conception of the Theotokos well over two thousand years ago has been illumined by the Archangel’s greeting to the Mother of God “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” It has been illumined by the One promised by the prophets, the Incarnate Son of God.” What was hidden has been made manifest.