|Commemorated September 9
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
"As we celebrate the remembrance of thy
righteous grand- parents, through them we beseech thee, O
Lord, to save our souls" .
There can be no more touching tribute than to be sung in
praise and prayer in the sacred music of the Church. Another
hymn contains the words,
"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".
The names of Joachim and Anna are an integral part of the
Divine Liturgy, always mentioned
in the prayerful conclusion of services with the words: "May
the risen Christ, our true God, with the prayers of his pure
and holy Mother, the power of the precious and life-giving
Cross, the protection of the spiritual powers of
Heaven...the holy and righteous ancestors Joachim and
Anna...and all the saints whose memory we celebrate have
mercy on us and save us".
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