The Conception of the Theotokos by Saint Anna is commemorated by the Orthodox Church on December 9. St. Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She married St. Joachim, who was a native of Galilee. For many years, St. Anna was childless and the couple suffered much reproach for her barrenness. When they were in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, the High Priest, Issachar, upbraided Joachim, "You are not worthy to offer sacrifice with those childless hands." Both spouses gave themselves to fervent prayer, and the Archangel Gabriel announced to them separately that they would be the parents of a daughter who would bring blessings to the whole human race.
The Orthodox Church does not accept the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, but has also always believed that the Virgin Mary was, from her conception, filled with every Grace of the Holy Spirit in view of her calling as the Mother of Christ our God.
The feast is not exactly nine months before the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8) as it is in the West, but one day later. Many have taught this is to show that God alone is perfect.
Troparion (Tone 4)
- Today the bonds of barrenness are broken,
- God has heard the prayers of Joachim and Anna.
- He has promised them beyond all their hopes,
- To bear the Maiden of God
- By whom the Uncircumscribed One was born as mortal man,
- Who commanded an angel to cry to Her:
- Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!
Kontakion (Tone 4)
- Today the universe rejoices,
- For Anna has conceived the Theotokos through God's dispensation,
- For she has brought forth the One who is to bear the Ineffable Word!
- Conception of the Theotokos (OCA.org)