July 26: Sts Joachim and Anne (Mt 13:16-17)




            What do we know about Joachim and Anne, and why do we celebrate their Memorial?


            The names of the father and mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary are found for the first time in the Proto-Gospel of James, written in the Second Century. This is one of the most popular apocryphal gospels, which were not considered authentic, unlike the four recognized gospels. Even so, the Proto-Gospel of James influenced the liturgy of the Eastern Church, and this influence spread later to the Western Church.


            We know nothing historically about Joachim and Anne. Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have had parents of her own, and here they are, named probably by popular piety.


            Their significance is not on the historical level. Devotion to St Anne got into trouble in the Seventeenth Century, when various excesses were condemned, such as calling her “the closest parent of the Divine Majesty after the Blessed Virgin”, and “the grandmother of Christ”, or calling Christ “the grandson of St Anne.”


            Rather, they have a theological meaning and result from theological reflection. Biblical piety is convinced that, in the way God acts, he proportions his instruments to his purpose for them, and he adapts persons to the work they are to do. Recognizing the wisdom of God’s choices, Christians have given liturgical status to the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus.


            Popular piety concludes that Joachim and Anne must have been special people. As St John Damascene exclaims, in his sermon on the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “O blessed couple, Joachim and Anne! All creation is in your debt. For through you it presented the noblest of gifts to the Creator, namely, a spotless mother, who alone was worthy for the Creator.”


            The choice of the gospel for today’s Memorial includes Mary’s parents among the holy men and women who longed to see what the disciples of Jesus saw, and never saw it; to hear what they heard, and never heard it (cf. Mt 13:17). The promises made to Abraham, Moses, and David passed through the human progenitors of Mary and Jesus.


            As we celebrate today’s Memorial of Sts Joachim and Anne, let us praise and thank Almighty God, since the parents of the Blessed Virgin were a providential preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of Mary the Virgin.