July 26th is the feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. Tradition tells us that they were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are not mentioned in the Bible. Rather, their story was told in literature which was produced by early Christians fascinated by all aspects of Christ’s life on earth. They produced many pious stories, often weaving them from the barest of historical fact. The authors were always anonymous, although they would use the name of a great saint or apostle to add credence to their story. They would even refer to them as “gospels” to try to give them authority.
People listened to these accounts [most people couldn’t read] in a spirit of prayer and devotion, trying to enter into the mystery of the life of Christ. When we practice Christian meditation on the Mysteries of the Rosary, letting our minds imagine the scene of e.g. Christ agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood, longing for comfort– we enter into the same sort of devotion.
The early accounts begin with Joachim and Anne, an older couple who longed for children and yet had not been so blessed. It tells how they prayed and longed for a child. Their prayer and petitions are heard by God, and they are blessed with a child, whom they named Mary. This longed for child was special, and her parents knew it. She was to be the vessel which would bear the Longed-for-of-Ages – the Messiah!
We know that the Blessed Virgin Mary was “Immaculate”– “unstained/without sin”– from the moment of her conception. God truly blessed her faithful and long-suffering parents for their devotion. The Virgin Mary’s parents cherished her and loved her. Legend tells us that they even made the decision to educate her and love the Word of God as they did. The painting showing the young Virgin Mary holding a candle while her mother Saint Anne holds a book, conveys the complex mystery revealed through this holy family: the girl who would bear the Light of the World and the Word of God, bears light as her mother teaches her the Word.
The Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne is the original and real Grandparents’ Day because it honors the grandparents of the Savior. The fact of our Savior’s human ancestry, and the cooperation of his human family is our joy. Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, dwelt among us in our human flesh. In honoring His grandparents we proclaim our Faith in the Incarnation – God become Man!
Love and Peace,
Fr. Liam Quinlan