So much attention is paid by Christians to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, sanctified in every conceivable way, that there is a tendency to overlook her parents. Commemorated the day after the commemoration of their daughter, who is remembered on other days as well, Joachim and Anna were the parents of a flesh-and-blood human being they called Mary and, therefore, the grandparents of a flesh-and-blood human being, in form at least, who died to save the world.
Considered in this light, this couple is appreciated most by the grandfathers and grandmothers of the world.
The spiritual beauty of St Anna is expressed in the Bible, equalled by that of her devoted husband, the too lightly regarded Joachim. Since there is no greater part of the divine plan of the universe than motherhood, it follows that St. Anna is given individual honour with an observance of a feast day in her name on July 26. This in no way diminishes the image of her husband St Joachim.
Shrouded by twenty centuries of legend, close scrutiny by biblical scholars has cleared away legend and established a more accurate and factual account, however meager, of Sts Joachim and Anna. There is no denying the word of the Apostle James, who saw fit to go to great lengths to glean facts about the parents of Mary which he describes in a letter that somehow failed to find official acceptance.
Conflicting views notwithstanding, it is definitely known that St Anna was of the prestigious Hebrew tribe of Levi and that she was the daughter of the high priest Nathan, wed to a namesake Mary. This high priest had two daughters besides the Mary who mothered Anna. They were called Sovin and Anna, both of whom became mothers in Bethlehem, but Anna was married in Galilee where Mary, the Theotokos, was born. There is no denying Joachim was favored of God, who answered his prayer that a child be born to the barren union with Anna. The answer was Mary, of course, and thereafter was set in motion the world's greatest faith, so overwhelming that St Joachim fades from view in misty swirls that surround the sweet mysteries of Christianity. It is enough to know St Joachim was the father of Mary, the mother who bore Jesus Christ, the divine Saviour who changed the course of world history and set it on another path which, if followed, leads to eternal life.
The fact that God moves in a mysterious way was evident when Joachim and Anna prayed for a child they knew not whether they were being granted a son or a daughter so they had no knowledge of what lay in store for them and for the world. The Apostle James has quoted an angel of the Lord as saying to Anna, "the Lord hath heard thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive and bring forth, and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world." There was no mention of the sex of the child as the Apostle James goes on to say that Anna accepted with the words: "As the Lord my God liveth if I beget male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister unto him holy things all the days of its life." The use of the word "it" indicates Anna may have had premonitions but certainly no advance notice that 'it' was to be "she," who in turn knowingly brought forth the Son of God. Indeed God does move in a mysterious way.
The Greek Orthodox Church has a hymn which sings gloriously,
"As we celebrate the remembrance of thy righteous
grand- parents, through them we beseech thee, O Lord, to save our souls" .
"Anna doth rejoice now that she is loosed from
the bonds of barrenness, as she nourisheth the most pure one, calling
all to praise him who hath given the world her who alone is Mother,
yet hath known no man".
Dates are in Old Style here.
Saints Joachim and Anna
St. Joachim was of the tribe of Judah, and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, of the tribe of Levi as was Aaron the High Priest. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Zoia and Anna. Mary was married in Bethlehem and bore Salome; Zoia was also married in Bethlehem and bore Elisabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner; and Anna was married in Nazareth to Joachim, and in old age gave birth to Mary, the most holy Mother of God. Joachim and Anna had been married for fifty years, and were barren. They lived devoutly and quietly, using only a third of their income for themselves and giving a third to the poor and a third to the Temple, and they were well provided for. Once, when they were already old and 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." Others who had children jostled Joachim, thrusting him back as unworthy. This caused great grief to the two aged souls, and they went home with very heavy hearts. Then the two of them gave themselves to prayer to God that He would work in them the wonder that He had worked in Abraham and Sarah, and give them a child to comfort their old age. God sent them His angel, who gave them tidings of the birth of "a daughter most blessed, by whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and through whom will come the salvation of the world." Anna conceived at once, and in the ninth month gave birth to the holy Virgin Mary. St. Joachim lived for eighty years and Anna for seventy-nine, and they both entered into the kingdom of God.
Troparion, Tone 5:
Kontakion, Tone 2:
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