Sunday, July 26, 2009

Feast of St. Ann

One of my favorite days in the calendar, one that I anticipate is this day the Feast of St. Ann. In the traditional calendar, St. Ann was honored alone. In the modernized calendar, St. Joachim has been added. This is appropriate, I think, especially in a culture when fathers are all too often relegated to roles as sit-com dads or comedy movie bumblers. Fathers, and thus grandfathers are as important as mothers and grandmothers.

I have an especial love for the images of St. Ann with the little girl, her daughter, Mary at her knee, a book open. This is an image of a woman who is clearly literate, passing on her knowledge to her daughter. She would also have taught spinning and weaving and the other domestic arts to this daughter who was destined to play such a powerful role in "salvation history", a term I put in quotes because it was part of the catechism instruction that I received as a child (also at my mother's knee--and my father's) and that I have not heard used recently.

There was, I believe, a seamless integration of the activities, what I believe today we might call "roles"--of St Ann and St Joachim as they went about their daily lives. Today the closest that many of us come to physical labor is picking up and adjusting the keyboard and the mouse and then typing as we sit down to our computers. To exercise our bodies we go for a run or to the gym.

In an earlier, pre-industrial, pre-modern society, the muscles were used everyday for everyday tasks. Spinning, weaving, sweeping, carpentry. (This raises the question, that I don't believe I have ever heard an answer to--St Joseph was a carpenter, what did St Joachim do?)

I miss hearing the lovely chants for this feast and should go poking around on the internet to see if I can find them. I am grateful for the childhood spent learning these devotions and the traditions of Catholicism, and for the time, too brief in retrospect, that I spent singing in a chant choir when I was a young woman. Grateful, too that that chant choir is still well and singing in Palo Alto.

Today is a lovely day with cloud cover still at almost 9:30. I can remember so many times that we sang in a heat wave, an evening Mass. As the sun set the cooling ocean breeze would blow in the chapel windows and doors and by the time that the last note had been sung, the last candle blown out and the last program collected, we would shiver slightly as we walked across the lawn to the house were we would have refreshments to continue the celebration of the feast.

I am grateful for these memories too and wish you a happy and blessed St Ann's Day.

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