Saint Anna, the mother of Mary

Tamara Penwell's icon of Saint Anna the mother of Mary

“The Grandmother of God” is not a title formally applied by the Christian Church to Saint Anna, the mother of Mary (the Mother of God – Theotokos). However, that is effectively what she was. Jesus, the Incarnate God had human ancestors, uncles, aunts and cousins, some of whom are mentioned in the Gospels.

Canonical Gospels do not mention Anna and her husband Joachim by name. We can read about them in the Protoevangelium of St James, where we find out that Joachim and Anna were an elderly couple who were righteous but childless. Due to their childlessness they were slighted by their community, who viewed childlessness as a sign of their unworthiness and of God’s displeasure.

In the icon Anna is represented as elderly, however the green of her garment symbolises life and renewal. The birth of Mary heralds a new dawn and begins the history of the salvation of the world. The Nativity of the Mother of God is the first of the major Church festivals in the liturgical year and is celebrated on 8th September. The New Year begins on 1st September when prayers are offered for all of Creation.