On St Anne’s day – 26 July 2021
Here is a picture of mussel gatherers, showing three generations in one family. Towards the back of the group an older woman walks with her head bowed, her face determined and weathered by age and hard work. With her, and following her, is a younger woman, most likely her daughter, who is very poorly dressed, her clothes in rags. This woman’s face shows great sadness, and as she walks she stumbles a little (notice the placing of her feet). She is in deep thought, weary of the demanding life she lives with the monotony and physical effort required to survive. Both women carry baskets that they will fill with mussels, gathered from the rocks using their bare hands. The younger woman also carries a little child in a basket on her back. This child is unconcerned about the labours of the day. Its attention is caught by something fleeting in the hand – sunlight or a breeze maybe.
Today we commemorate St Anne, and give thanks for women who support those in the next generations. These women (grandmothers, mentors, advisors, friends) are often hidden and shadowy figures, but their presence is essential. Most grandmothers and mothers in the world know hard lives of constant work and, at best, offer support from one generation to another.
This painting, from Aberdeen Art Gallery, is called ‘Les Moulières, Villerville, France’, (1902) is by the Scottish painter Robert McGregor (1847 – 1922), known for his empathetic portrayals of farm life and the Scottish working class. Born in Bradford, England, McGregor was a self-taught artist who began his career as a book illustrator for a publishing company, and later became a member of the Royal Scottish Academy for 16 years. Today, his work is exhibited at the National Gallery of Scotland.
And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.
Protoevangelium of James
St Anne, save me from every danger that confronts me in life, and help me at the hour of death, that so I may come in safety to paradise, there to sing with thee, O most happy mother, the praises of the Word of God made Man in the mother of thy most pure daughter, the Virgin Mary. Amen