An ancient tradition, which begins the second century, attributes the names San Joaquin and Santa Ana to the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The cult of St. Anne was introduced already in the Eastern Church in the sixth century, and moved to the west in the tenth century, the cult of Saint Joachim is more recent.
All that is known of them, including their names, come from apocryphal literature, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the apocryphal Gospel of Matthew and the Protoevangelium of Santiago.
The oldest of these date back about 150 ad. In the East the Protoevangelium enjoyed great authority, some portions were read on the feasts of the Virgin Mary. In the West, however, was rejected by the Fathers of the Church. In the thirteenth century, parts of Santiago Protoevangelium was incorporated by Jacobus de Voragine in his "Golden Legend". Since then the history of Santa Ana was propagated by the West to become one of the most popular saints of the Latin Church.
The name 'Anne' comes from the Hebrew. 'Hannah' meaning 'grace.
Traditionally St. Anne (Saint Anna) is the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although not recorded in the Bible, Anne is given reference in the non-biblical gospel of James.
In terms of common sense, the Virgin Mary needed, being a human being, a human mother. As such Saint Anne is 'logically' necessary. Being such she is a logical penultimate to the coming of Mary and Mary of course is the same for the coming of Christ Jesus. The whole chain is beautiful if you meditate on it. Saint Anne is logically necessary and yet her mother and father are not, because Ann is only necessary because she makes the Virgin Mary a reality. In other words Anne's entire purpose is only, and simply, to bring the the Virgin Mary into the world. It is not important nor necessary to have Anne's existence important nor necessary were Mary not to be. She is, as such, a first cause and becomes significant only by what comes after her.
Saint Ann was born it is said, in Bethlehem and married Joachim her spouse, from Nazareth in Galilee. Joachim was likely a shepherd given the task of a shepherd, of supplying the temple of Jerusalem regularly with sheep for sacrifices.
After 20 years of marriage Ann and Joachim had, unusually, no children. Once, when Joachim mistakenly overheard ridicule of others, because of their childless state, the man is said to have decided to go
into the desert to plead with God to give them a child. After a time of fasting an angel appeared to assure Joachim he and Ann would be given a child they were to name Mary and dedicate to God.
In the meantime Saint Anne questioned where her husband had disappeared to and in her despair at having certainly been barren she prayed to God while she watched newborn birds in their little nests in her garden. She cried out to her Creator, "Why was I born, Lord?" This I find interesting. Anna intuited that her existence had an importance to biblical, theological, salvation history and that is when angel appeared to tell her she would give birth to a daughter and that she was to name her Mary. The story continues with Ann and Joachim's joyous reunion at the golden gate of Jerusalem.
After her birth Ann and Joachim totally dedicated themselves to Mary knowing her importance to God and at the temple of Jerusalem and she spent much of her childhood there in the safety and keeping of God and the holy priests and prophets who made a great influence on her. When Mary was, it is said, 14, they betrothed her to Joseph of Nazareth and thus Mary's story continues with the birth of her son, Jesus, and his life on earth.
The life of Saint Ann and her connection as holy mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus was very popular to early Christians. In the year 550 a church was built in honor
of St. Anne in Jerusalem. It is believed to be near where Anne, Joachim and Mary lived.
Since the Seventh Century the Greek and Russian Churches have celebrated feasts honoring St. Joachim and St. Ann. The Western Churches began to celebrate the feast of St. Anne in the Sixteenth Century.
The feast of St. Ann is July 26th (western) or July 25th (eastern calendar). There is no mention of Ann in the New Testament. The story of St. Ann comes chiefly from the Protoevangelium of James which only dated back to the second century.
St. Ann, patron saint of mothers and women in labor and minors, is symbolized by Mary in her lap holding the infant Jesus.
The writings called "apocrypha" were not accepted by the Church as part of the canon of Scripture because they contain lots of data that are unreliable. But if they contain some information from historical documents. It is difficult to distinguish in them the good grain from the chaff.
The Protoevangelium gives us the following story: In Nazareth lived Joachim and Anna, a wealthy couple and pious but had no children. When at a party Joaquin appeared to offer sacrifice in the Temple, was rejected by a certain Ruben, under the pretext that men without offspring were unworthy of being admitted. Joaquin, full of grief, did not return home but went to the mountains to stand before God in solitude. Also Hannah, having learned the reason for the prolonged absence of her husband, cried to the Lord asking him to withdraw it the curse of sterility and offspring promised to dedicate to His service.
Their prayers were heard, an angel visited Anna and said, "Hannah, the Lord has looked upon thy tears; conceive and give birth and the fruit of your womb will be blessed by all the world." The angel made the same promise to Joachim, who returned to his wife. Anne gave birth to a daughter whom she called Miriam (Mary). This story resembles the conception of Samuel in the Scriptures, whose mother was also called Hannah (1 Kings 1).
Anne and Joachim Reunited at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem
Anna Herself was Not a Virgin as Mary Was
According to an ancient tradition, the parents of the Blessed. Virgin, being Galileans, moved to Jerusalem. There, according to the same tradition, was born and raised the Blessed Virgin. These two, Anne and Joachim, were also called venerable saints. A church, known at different times as Santa Maria, Santa Maria ubi est cream, Probatica Santa Maria, Santa Probatica and Santa Ana, was built in the fourth century, possibly by St. Helena (mother of Emperor Constantine) on site the house of Joachim and Anna Their tombs were honored until the end of the ninth century, when Muslim invaders turned it into a school. The crypt, which originally contained the holy tombs was discovered on March 18, 1889.
Many legends have been written about the lives of San Joaquin and Santa Ana, causing great confusion among the faithful. According to one, Santa Ana was mother to the Blessed Virgin conceived without male partner, thus remaining a virgin. This error was condemned by the Holy See in 1677 (Benedict XIV, De Festis, II, 9).
Veneration of Santa Ana
In the Eastern Church and St. Anne was venerated in the fourth century. The best proof is that the emperor Justin I (+565) dedicated a church. Devotion to Santa Ana is located in the oldest liturgical documents of the Greek Church. In the West and worshiped Santa Ana, except perhaps in the south of France, until the thirteenth century. Her picture, painted in the eighth century in Byzantine style, was later found in the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome. Her birthdate , under the influence of the "Golden Legend," appears in the thirteenth century and is held on July 26.
In 1382, Urban VI issued the first papal decree concerning Santa Ana, giving the celebration of the feast of the holy bishops of England alone, exactly as requested by some English. Most likely the chance of that decree was the marriage of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in that year. The feast was extended to the entire Western Church in 1584.
Relics of St. Anne
It is said that the relics attributed to St. Anne were brought from the Holy Land to Constantinople in 710. There were in the church of St. Sophia in 1333. The tradition of the Church in southern France said that the body of St. Anne was brought by St. Lazarus, the friend of Jesus Christ, was hidden and found again during the reign of Charlemagne. The head of Santa Ana remained at Mainz until 1510, when it was stolen and brought to Düren, Germany. Unfortunately, there are no solid foundations to ensure the authenticity of these relics.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 17, 2013:
This is fascinating information. most of which I don't know. It's really nice to learn more about Mary and her family. Not much is written about her in the bible. Or perhaps, I'm not reading the Book enough.