The Holy and Righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna
September 9thThey lived simple lives of austere devotion, and their humility must have pleased the Lord greatly – for in the end He chose them over all others to become the holy parents of the Blessed Theotokos, and thus also the grandparents of the Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Sts. Joachim and Anna were two human beings of exemplary character. Because their lives were directed toward spiritual rather than material things, they chose to give one-third of their income to their Temple, and another third to the poor – leaving them with very little money on which to live. Yet they managed quite joyfully on these slender resources – and their frugality foretold the future birth of Our Savior, who would begin His own life in the humblest circumstances imaginable, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds in a manger.St. Joachim was of the tribe of Judah, and descended from King David – while his faithful spouse Anna had been born to a well-known priest of the tribe of Levi named Nathan, as one of his three daughters (Mary, Zoia and Anna). Mary would be married in Bethlehem and would become the mother of Salome, while Zoia, also married in Bethlehem, would give birth to Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner.
Joachim and Anna were married in Nazareth and then lived pious, quiet lives of wedded contentment. But their happiness was marred by one burning disappointment: After 50 years of marriage, they were not able to conceive a child. Their plight was made especially painful by the fact that in that period of history, being childless was regarded as a moral defect. TAKEN FROM At one point, the anguish felt by this barren couple became almost unbearable. It happened when the high priest at their temple – a heartless and harshly judgmental cleric named Reuben – sternly upbraided Joachim, while informing him that he was not worthy to offer sacrifice. From that point forward, he was not permitted to participate in the ritual sacrifices at the temple – a devastating outcome for a man of Joachim’s great piety.
Full of lamentation for his bleak situation, Joachim wandered the desert, praying and calling on the Lord to remember how He had blessed Abraham and Sarah with a child, even at a very late age. Thankfully, the Almighty responded . . . by dispatching a mighty angel who gave them glad tidings, before announcing (according to the non-Biblical Gospel of James, an informal history of the period) that they would be rewarded with “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.”
While Joachim looked on in amazement, according to the Apostle James, the angel spoke through the dazzling beams of a blazing light: “I, the Lord’s angel, am sent to thee, to announce to thee that thy prayers are granted, and thine alms works have ascended in the sight of the Lord. I have seen thy shame and heard the reproach of barrenness wrongfully cast upon thee. For God indeed punishes not nature, but sin, and therefore, when He closes a womb, it is only that He may later open it more wondrously, and that all may know that what is born thereof is the fruit not of lust but of the divine munificence.
“Did not Sara, the first mother of your race, bear the shame of barrenness until her ninetieth year, and yet bear Isaac, to whom was promised the blessing of all nations? Did not Rachel also long remain barren, and yet beget Joseph, who was the ruler over all of Egypt?
“Thus Anna thy wife will bear thee a daughter, and thou shalt call her name Mary. In accordance with your vow, she shall be consecrated to the Lord from her infancy, and shall be filled with the Holy Spirit from her mother’s womb. . . . And as she will be born of a barren mother, so will she herself, in wondrous wise, beget the son of the Most high. Whose name will be called Jesus, and through Whom salvation will come to all nations!”
Anna conceived soon after this marvelous announcement and within the appointed time she delivered the Blessed Theotokos to a grateful world. The two parents rejoiced heartily and for good reason: Their grandchild on some future happy day would be no one other than the Son of God! Anna’s joy in the arrival of the Mother of God is wonderfully captured in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of James, as follows:
“And her mother took her [Mary] up to the bedroom-sanctuary and gave her breast to the child. And Anna composed a song for the Lord God, saying, ‘I will sing a holy song to the Lord my God because he has examined me and removed my horrible disgrace from me. And the Lord God gave me the fruit of his righteousness, of one nature, but manifold before him. Who will proclaim to the sons of Reubel that Anna nurses a child? Do you hear? Hear this, twelve tribes of Israel: Anna nurses a child!’”
The lives of these two saintly people show clearly – and triumphantly – how the Lord God often answers the prayers of those who call upon him, even in tearful sorrow. As many Church Fathers have pointed out over the ages, their inspiring faithfulness also reminds Christians frequently of Jesus’ eternal faithfulness to His own Heavenly Father.
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
As we celebrate the memory of Thy righteous Ancestors, O Lord our God, through them we beseech Thee to save our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Now Anna is glad, for from the bonds of barrenness hath she been released; and nourishing the all-pure one, she doth summon all together, that they might praise Him Who from her womb hath bestowed upon mortal men the only pure Mother who hath not known man.