Anna: The Woman who Mothered God’s Mother

Anna, My grandmother

 In Malayalam, the language used in Kerala, India, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose name is written in English as Anne, is called Anna. The same was my maternal grandmother’s name. She was from the South of Kerala, all her family was. They moved to the north during the end of the great period of the migration in Kerala’s social history, in the early eighties. The demographic that migrated was mostly composed of Syrian Catholics. I have heard people call my grandmother “Annamma” and “Annamma chedathi”, monikers that mean ‘mother’ as in the Malayalam word “amma” and “chedathi” meaning ‘elder sister’, in which case, “chedathi” is also a common term used to refer women of the Syrian Catholic community. 

 Anna, in the Catholic tradition, is the mother of the mother of God, the Blessed Virgin, who accepted God’s will and prioritised obedience over her individual preferences. Jesus, her son, also shows a similar attitude. He is seen always to stress the will of God to his own individual priorities, to the point that in the process, even his individual rights get obliterated by the cruelties of the world. Jesus is physically tortured and is crucified in a way that undermines even the basics of human rights. 

 Preferring not one’s own will, obliterating self-centeredness and achieving the will of God are qualities that one may also observe in Mary. At the time of Immaculate Conception, when the angel of God comes to Mary to inform her about the will of God, she responds, “let it be with me according to your word.” Mary is not just aware of the presence of God, but she also is willing to serve the will of God. This character in a young girl would certainly have come from her parents as well as her upbringing. This is where Anna, as I see it, is manifested with supreme importance, even though the Bible remains silent about Mary’s parents, mostly because it is focused about the Saviour’s life and His redeeming Sacrifice. Although invisible figures, Anna, Mary’s mother and Joachim, Mary’s father, for me, find reflection in how St Joseph and Mary herself give birth and protect the Christ child. The upbringing of Jesus is also not mentioned in the Bible, and St Joseph appears in very short phrases, with no passages or even words spoken by St Joseph.

When I remember Anna, my grandmother, I am reminded of the dedication with which she served her family and protected her children, including my mother. There were times, when her children went away from her, leaving her alone, in the lonely phases of old age. But she kept her spirit high, always, accepting hardships with a smile. She is no longer here, in this world. She passed away on 26 November 2011. But in her absence Anna guides her children and children’s children. And it is reflected in their willingness to engage in what they deem right and being subservient to the will of God, irrespective of what the world might say about them. 


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