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Saints Joachim and Anna: parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Anna and Gioacchino are the parents of Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Fathers of the Church often remembered them in their works. The words of Saint John Damascene, bishop, for example, are splendid: "Since it had to happen that the Virgin Mother of God was born of Anna, nature did not dare to precede the seed of grace; but she remained without her own fruit for grace to produce her fruit. In fact, the firstborn had to be born from whom the firstborn of every creature would be born "in whom all things exist" (Col 1:17).

O happy couple, Joachim and Anna! Every creature is indebted to you, because for you the creature offered the Creator the most welcome gift, that is, that chaste mother, who alone was worthy of the creator... O Joachim and Anna, most chaste couple! By maintaining the chastity prescribed by natural law, you have achieved, by divine virtue, that which surpasses nature: you have given the world the mother of God who knew no man. You, leading a pious and holy life in the human condition, have given birth to a daughter greater than the angels and now queen of the angels themselves..."

Despite the fact that there is little news of St. Anna, and moreover from neither official nor canonical texts, her cult is extremely widespread both in the East (6th century) and in the West (10th century - that of Joachim in the 14th century .).

Almost every city has a church dedicated to her, Caserta he considers her his heavenly Patroness, Anna's name is repeated in the headings of streets, city districts, clinics and other places; some Municipalities bear her name. The mother of the Virgin, she is the holder of various patronages almost all linked to Mary but above all the patroness of family mothers, widows, pregnant women; she is invoked in difficult births and against marital sterility.

Anna comes from the Hebrew Hannah (grace) and is not remembered in the canonical Gospels; instead, the apocryphal gospels of the Nativity and Infancy speak of it, of which the oldest is the so-called "Proto-Gospel of St. James", written no later than the middle of the second century.

This tells that Joachim, Anna's husband, was a pious and very rich man and lived near Jerusalem, near the Probatic Pool spring. One day while he was bringing his abundant offerings to the Temple, as he did every year, the high priest Reuben stopped him saying: "You do not have the right to do it first, because you have not begotten offspring."

Gioacchino and Anna were spouses who truly loved each other, but they had no children and given their age they would no longer have any; according to the Jewish mentality of the time, the high priest saw the divine curse on them, therefore they were sterile.

The elderly rich shepherd, due to the love he had for his wife, did not want to find another woman to have a child; therefore, saddened by the words of the high priest, he went to the archive of the twelve tribes of Israel to verify if what Reuben said was true and once he noticed that all the pious and observant men had had children, shocked, he did not have the courage to return home and retreated to his mountain land and for forty days and forty nights he begged God's help with tears, prayers and fasting.

Anna also suffered from this sterility, to which was added the suffering from this "escape" of her husband; she then began to pray intensely, asking God to grant their prayer to have a child.

During the prayer, an angel appeared to her and announced: "Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer and you will conceive and give birth and your offspring will be spoken of throughout the world". So it happened and after a few months Anna gave birth. The «Protovangelo di San Giacomo» concludes: «After the necessary days…, she gave suck to her baby calling her Maria, or rather “Beloved of the Lord”».

Many Popes dealt with the SS. Anna and Joachim:

Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi, 1621-1623) had the Divine Office composed entirely by him; Clement XI (Giovanni Francesco Albani, 1700-1721) fixed the feast at the octave of the Assumption; Leo XIII (Gioacchino Pecci, 1878-1903) elevated the rite; St. Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto, 1903-1914) fixed the date on August 16th and finally Blessed Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1963-1978), in the reform of the Liturgical Calendar, definitively placed their feast on July 26th.

Meaning of the names :

Anna: “grace, the beneficent” (Hebrew).

Joachim: “God lifts up” (Hebrew).

Santi Gioacchino e Anna
Saints Joachim and Anna

source ©

There are no references in the Bible about Joachim and Anna, Mary's parents, and there is no certain information; those that have come down to us today are derived from apocryphal texts such as the Proto-Gospel of James and the Gospel of pseudo-Matthew, as well as from tradition.

The descendants, a sign of God's love

Anna seems to have been the daughter of Achar and sister of Esmeria, mother of Elizabeth and therefore grandmother of John the Baptist.

Joachim is handed down as a virtuous and very rich man of the lineage of David, who used to offer a part of the proceeds of his goods to the people and a part as a sacrifice to God.

Both live in Jerusalem. Married, Gioacchino and Anna have not had children for over twenty years. Not producing children, for the Jews, in this era is a sign of the lack of God's blessing and favor; therefore, one day, while bringing his offerings to the Temple, Joachim is reprimanded by a certain Ruben (perhaps a priest or a scribe): unworthy for not having procreated, in fact, according to him he has no right to present his offerings.

Joachim, humiliated and shocked by those words, decides to retreat into the desert and for forty days and forty nights begs God, between tears and fasting, to give him descendants.

Anna also spends days in prayer asking God for the grace of motherhood.

The announcement of the birth of Maria

The pleas of Joachim and Anna are heard up there; so an angel appears separately to both of them and warns them that they are about to become parents.

The meeting on the doorstep between the two, after the announcement, is enriched with legendary details. The kiss that the two spouses would have exchanged was handed down in front of the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, the place where, according to a Jewish tradition, the divine presence was manifested and the advent of the Messiah would have manifested itself.

The iconography of this kiss in front of the well-known door that Christians believe is the one through which Jesus entered the Holy City on Palm Sunday is extensive.

Months after Joachim's return, Anna gives birth to Maria. The little girl was raised between the affectionate care of her father and the loving attention of her mother, in the house which was located near the Betzaeta swimming pool.

Here, in the 12th century, the Crusaders built a church, which still exists today, dedicated to Anna who educated her daughter in the domestic arts.

The cult

When Mary turns 3, to thank God, Joachim and Anna present her to the Temple to consecrate her to the service of the Temple itself, as they had promised in their prayers.

Of Gioacchino the apocrypha does not report anything else, while on Anna they add that she would have lived until the age of 80. Her relics would have been kept for a long time in the Holy Land, then transferred to France and buried in a chapel dug under the cathedral of Apt.

The discovery and identification would subsequently be accompanied by some miracles. The cult of Jesus' grandparents developed first in the East, then in the West and over the centuries the Church has remembered them on different dates.

In 1481 Pope Sixtus IV introduced the feast of Saint Anna in the Roman Breviary, setting the date of the liturgical memorial at 26 July, handed down as the day of death; in 1584 Gregory XIII inserted the liturgical celebration of Saint Anne into the Roman Missal, extending it to the whole Church. In 1510, it was Julius II, however, who inserted the memory of Saint Joachim into the liturgical calendar on 20 March, which was then moved several times in the following centuries.

With the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council in 1969, Mary's parents were "reunited” in a single celebration on July 26th.

Finally, on 31 January 2021, Pope francesco at the end of the Angelus he announces the establishment of the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated on the fourth Sunday of July - close to the feast of Jesus' grandparents - to remember the gift of old age and celebrate those who pass on the faith to subsequent generations.

Below is a prayer to Sts. Anna and Gioacchino in favor of their grandparents recited several times by Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of their party:

Lord Jesus, you were born of the Virgin Mary, daughter of Saint Joachim and Saint Anna. Look with love at grandparents around the world.

Protect them: they are a source of enrichment for families, for the church and for the whole of society.

Support them: even in their old age they continue to be sturdy pillars of evangelical faith for their families, custodians of the family's noble ideals, living treasures of solid religious traditions.

Let them be teachers of wisdom and values, who pass on to future generations the fruits of their mature human and spiritual experience.

Lord Jesus, help families and society to enhance the presence and role of grandparents.

May they never be ignored or excluded, but always encounter respect and love. Help them to live peacefully and feel welcomed for all the years of life that you grant them.

Mary, Mother of all living, always protect your grandparents, accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage, and with your prayers let all families reunite one day in the heavenly homeland, where you await all humanity for the great embrace of life without end.


source © Vatican News – Dicastery for Communication

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