Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
One of the most important human relationships that we have is our family. It is said that we not only inherit our genetic disposition from our parents, but the way our parents raised us in turn makes a profound effect on our lives. We do not pick what parents we have; in fact we have absolutely no control over that. It's interesting that such a fundamental aspect that affects our whole disposition is not up to us, but rather is up to God; He chooses the set of parents and leaves it up to their own free will if we should be nurtured and taken care of or not. And we are the result of this. That said, once we leave our parents we still can take control of our lives and be righteous; we too grow up and have our own free will to do what is right or wrong.
The reason why I bring this up is that today we commemorate the dormition of the righteous Anna. Today is the day that she fell asleep in the Lord. It is said in the tradition of the Church that she reposed at the age of 79 before the Annunciation of the Holy Theotokos.
Looking back in her history, we see that the Righteous Anna's parents were named Matthan and Mary. Matthan was from the tribe of Levi which means that through his bloodline, he would serve as a Priest. It is said that Anna had two Sisters, Mary and Zoia. Tradition states Anna's sister Mary had a daughter, Salome, who was one of the Myrrhbearers. On the other hand, Zoia had a daughter named Elizabeth who would become the mother of St. John the Forerunner. This is an amazing thing to see so many holy ones come forth from this line; not only that but that they stayed together and would minister together with Jesus Christ.
The Righteous Anna, through her grace and humility, brought forth the Most Holy Theotokos together with the Righteous Joachim. St John of Damascus writes about the Holy couple the following: "Joachim and Anna, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have born, as the Lord says: By their fruits you will know them. The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body".
This quote of St. John tells us that they brought forth the Holy Mother of God because they were holy, they lived God-pleasing lives. Tradition states the righteous Joachim and Anna were not able to have children. Even in that state, they still had faith in God. And this is why God blessed them, not only with any child, but with the Mother of God. And that righteousness did not end when they had the Holy Mother of God. In fact, they probably became even more holy and righteous. Can you imagine what love and patience she showed her own daughter so that she would be raised to eventually bore the savior of this world. Not only that, but we see the seriousness of the faith of Anna, how she dedicated her own daughter to be a virgin in the temple. How difficult it must be to give up the one child you have in order for her to live far away in the care of others. But she did that because it was the right thing to do.
As we hear in the Gospel reading today: "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it". (Luke 8: 21) This reading states that we are not tied by who our birth parents are or what lineage they come from, but rather what actions we take.
Do we hear the word of God and do it? I think this is the message for us as parents: we need to really take our actions seriously, and how they affect our children and the next generation. Do we hear the word of God and have it live in our lives so that it will be an example for children?
Do we act like Christians in front of our children? Do our children see us showing actions of kindness and love for others? Do we teach forgiveness to our children, not through words but through actually forgiving people so that our children see us doing so? Do we pray with our children in the morning and evening, or at least do we pray so that they see us doing so? Do we fast together with our children? If we do not, then that's something we need to remedy. How should we expect our children to do those things if they don't see us doing them? How do we expect for our children to follow our faith after we have passed on, if they don't see it causing a transformation in our lives today?
And for those who do not have children, don't forget that children are very observant. If you are a living example of the life of Christ, a child around you might see that and that experience could stick with them their whole life. As the Gospel says: "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad" (Luke 8:17). We should never forget that all that we do affects those around us and that there are no private actions. All our actions, even those done in private, affect who we are as human beings.
The Church teaches us that when we honor a saint of the Church, we not only show them the honor, but also to the people who helped them become saints, especially their parents. Let us remember that all our actions affect those around us, especially the children. Let us keep that in mind and let us live out our lives as true Christians.