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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Favored, Graced

I have a friend who consistently calls me Ann. Now, Ann is my middle name, as it was common in my generation to use the name of Mary's mother as a second name.

In school, I knew Deborah Anns, Mary Anns, Margaret Anns, Patrica Anns, and so on.

The fact that this friend insists on calling me Ann has caused me to pray for two of my ancestors called Ann, and to wonder at the meaning of the name.

Ann is from Hannah, the ancient Hebrew name meaning favored or grace. I can identify with Hannah, as I did not have a child until very late in life, and was told I would never conceive by a doctor. Therefore, I can understand the intensity of the prayer of Hannah, which I copy here from 1 Samuel 2.  Like Hannah, I gave my son to the Lord. Hannah's prayer is like an Old Testament Magnificat. 

1 Samuel 2 Douay-Rheims

My heart hath rejoiced in the Lord, and my horn is exalted in my God: my mouth is enlarged over my enemies: because I have joyed in thy salvation.
There is none holy as the Lord is: for there is no other beside thee, and there is none strong like our God.
Do not multiply to speak lofty things, boasting: let old matters depart from your mouth: for the Lord is a God of all knowledge, and to him are thoughts prepared.
The bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength.
They that were full before have hired out themselves for bread: and the hungry are filled, so that the barren hath borne many: and she that had many children is weakened.
The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to hell and bringeth back again.
The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich, he humbleth and he exalteth.
He raiseth up the needy from the dust, and lifteth up the poor from the dunghill: that he may sit with princes, and hold the throne of glory. For the poles of the earth are the Lord's, and upon them he hath set the world.
He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness, because no man shall prevail by his own strength.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall fear him: and upon them shall he thunder in the heavens. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and he shall give empire to his king, and shall exalt the horn of his Christ.
When Our Lady was inspired to praise God in her Magnificat, she was creating a link to the Old Testament praise of God through Hannah. Our Lady Mary is the bridge between the Old and the New Testament.

That Mary's mother was graced, was favored to bear the Immaculate Conception is, without a doubt, a mystery of our faith. Can you imagine having a perfect child? A mother would become holy having such a child, watching her, learning from her. And, St. Ann is frequently depicted as teaching Mary the Scriptures. As a home-schooling mum, I can identify with her in that respect as well.

Ann, the grandmother of Jesus, seems not to have been around at the Birth of Christ. She may have died by that point, or was too old and ill to travel with Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. She is not mentioned in Scripture. We are told that Mary's birth happened after years of barrenness, and that Joachim went on a desert retreat to pray for a child. Mary was conceived because of prayer and God's Divine Providence from all eternity. Anne's unusual late pregnancy is celebrated in art, with Anna meeting Joachim at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, a symbol that Mary is the Gate to Heaven. She is the Gate to the New Jerusalem, the Church.

I had a friend whose birthday was on the feast of Joachim and Anna. These holy parents sometimes are forgotten by modern Catholics. I have lost track of that friend, but I pray for him almost daily. To be born on the feast of Joachim and Anna is a great blessing.

There are many famous Anns or Annes, named after the grandmother of Jesus, including Anne Line, martyr. Anne was a popular name in Tudor and Elizabethan times.

Why my friend insists on calling me Ann is a mystery to me, but I let her do so. Being called "favored" or "grace" is not such a bad thing.