(Sept. Anna; some versions have Hannah which is nearer to the
original Hebrew. The Hebrew word means "graciousness", from the
root word Hannan, "to be gracious.")
There are four women named "Anna" in Sacred Scripture.
(1) Anna (Samuel i-ii, 21), mother of Samuel, was one of the two
wives of Elcana, a man of Ramah, a Zuphite of the hill-country of
Ephraim. As a true woman of her nation, she felt keenly the
reproach of barrenness, all the more so that her rival, Phenenna,
more favoured than she, did not fail to remind her of her
affliction (Samuel i, 6-7). On one of the family's pilgrimages to
Silo, Anna made a vow that, should God bless her with a son, she
would consecrate him to His service as a Nazarite (Samuel i, 9-
11). Her prayer was heard, and after weaning her son she brought
him to Heli in Silo (Samuel i, 24-28). This generous fulfilment of
her vow was amply rewarded (Samuel ii, 21). Anna's canticle
(Samuel ii, 1-10) gives rise to questions similar to those
concerning the Magnificat, to which it has some striking
resemblances. Though a beautiful psalm, it is found inappropriate
on Anna's lips, having no special reference to her situation,
beyond the quite general remark in v. 5b. Unless v. 10b be taken
as a prophecy of the rise of the monarchy or of the Messiah, the
canticle would be, whatever its more precise date, posterior to
the establishment of the monarchy.
(2) Anna, wife of Tobias, was, like her husband, of the tribe of
Nephtali (Tob., i, 1-9). Together with her husband and son, also
called Tobias, she was taken into captivity to Ninive by
Shalmanaser (i, 2, 11). Her role is quite secondary in the
narrative. Her rather passionate nature serves to bring out more
strongly by contrast the deeply religious character of Tobias (cf.
ii, 19-23 and the beautiful prayer which his misunderstanding with
his wife brings on the lips of Tobias iii, 1-6). Her sincere and
solicitous love for her son is well expressed in v, 23-28; x 1-7;
xi, 5 (cf. the remark above).
(3) Anna is carefully described by Luke, ii, 36-38, as a
prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser. The
biographic notes given by Luke regarding the aged prophetess, of
whom legend knows that she had had Mary under her tutelage in the
Temple, bring out her great sanctity. In spite of her early
widowhood, she had never married again, but had devoted her life
to the service of God. She answers perfectly the portrait if the
model widow of I Tim.,v, 5-9. As she used to spend most of her
time in the Temple, her presence at the scene narrated in Luke,
ii, 25-35, is easily understood. Hence her praise to God, the
subject of which was Jesus, with the burden that He was the
(4) Anna is also the traditional name of the mother of the Blessed
Transcribed by Ann Waterman
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc., P.O. Box 281096, Denver, Colorado, USA, 80228.
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