Today we commemorate the Dormition of St Anne, the Mother of the Theotokos.
Tradition tells us that St Anne was the daughter of Matthan the priest, and was a part of the tribe of Levi. Her sister, Zoia, was the mother of Elizabeth, who in turn was mother of St John the Forerunner. St Anne was married to St Joachim, though after fifty years of marriage they remained barren. After much prayer by both, the angel Gabriel visited them and told them they would receive a daughter, through whom the world would be saved. In response, they promised to have their child raised in the Temple, and indeed when the Theotokos was three years old they took her to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord, where she remained as a consecrated virgin until she was entrusted to St Joseph.
Crucially, what we know about the Mother of the Mother of God serves to remind us of the Incarnational nature of our faith; that the spiritual may affect the material, that Christ was truly Man and truly God. Knowing what we do of the parents of the Theotokos’ serves to place the Gospel in time, grounding us in its historical reality. The Theotokos is not an ethereal abstraction, analogous to some nebulous pagan goddess. Christ doesn’t become Incarnate outside of space and time like the births of the Greek gods. The Theotokos is a real person with a real lineage, and through this reality so we again affirm the truth of Christ.