Mary, the mother of Jesus, came into the world in their house. They were bringing with her that extraordinary mystery of the Immaculate Conception. In their place, she grew up accompanied by their love and faith; in their home. She learned to listen to the Lord to follow her will of him. Saints Joachim and Anne are part of a long chain that transmitted faith. And love for God, in the warmth of the family, to Mary, who welcomed the Son of God in her womb and gave him to the world, donated to us. The precious value of the family as a privileged place to transmit the faith!”. With these words, Pope Francis spoke of the grandparents of Jesus during the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.
Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus and exemplary, very religious Jewish spouses, live at a crucial time in the history of salvation when God’s promise to Abraham comes true and humanity receives the answer expected from the righteous of the Old Testament. While awaiting the consolation of Israel, they are invested with a unique mission: to become the Immaculate’s parents, who are called to generate the Son of God.
What does the Bible say about Joachim and Anne?
There are no references to Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, in the Bible. Still, they are taken from apocryphal texts such as the Protoevangelium of James and the Gospel of the pseudo-Matthew, as well as from tradition. Anne is the daughter of Achar and sister of Esmeria, mother of Elizabeth. And therefore, the grandmother of John the Baptist. Joachim is a virtuous and wealthy man of the lineage of David who used to offer part of the proceeds of his goods to the people. And the rest as a sacrifice to God. Both live in Jerusalem, and after twenty years of marriage, they experience individual suffering. Because they had no children, at that time, in Israel, not having offspring was considered a lack of God’s blessing and favor towards that family.
They continue to lead their everyday life when Joachim enters the Temple one day to bring his offerings. And something happens that he would never have imagined. The high priest, Reuben, stops him by telling him he has no right to present the offerings. Because he has not begotten offspring. Joachim, humiliated and shocked by those words, decides to retire to the desert. And for forty days and nights, he begs the Lord, between tears and fasting, to give him a descendant.
How old was Saint Anne when she gave birth to Mary?
Saint Anne, too, turns to God, asking for the grace of motherhood. An angel appears to her and announces: “Anne, Anne, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you will conceive and give birth, and your offspring will be talked about worldwide.” An angelic creature also appears to Joachim to warn him that he is about to become a parent. After the announcement, the meeting on the doorstep between the two is enriched with legendary details. According to a Jewish tradition, the divine presence was manifested, and the advent of the Messiah would be displayed.
Months after Joachim’s return, Anne gives birth to Mary at 70. The child is raised amid her father’s loving and her mother’s loving attention in the house near the swimming pool in Betzaeta. In the 12th century, the Crusaders built a church, which still exists today—dedicated to Anne, who educated her daughter in the domestic arts. When Mary turns 3, to thank God, Joachim and Anne present her to the Temple as they had promised in their prayers. The apocryphal does not report anything else about Joachim. At the same time, Anne adds that she would have lived up to the age of 80 about her.
The relics of Saint Joachim
His relics would have been kept for a long time in the Holy Land. Then moved to France and was buried in a chapel excavated under the cathedral of Apt. The discovery and identification, subsequently, would have been accompanied by some miracles. Benedict XVI, in an Angelus of 2009, explained that the anniversary of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, “makes us think of the theme of education, which has such an important place in the pastoral care of the Church. In particular, he invites us to pray for grandparents, who are the custodians and often witnesses to life’s fundamental values”.
Read also: Is Israel The Promised Land?
Prayer to Saints Joachim and Anne
The authors’ imagination of the apocryphal Gospels makes Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, a discreet couple. Still, they were genuine, and they knew how to welcome, educate Mary and awaken her in the extraordinary grace which was hers and of which they were unaware. The cult of Saint Anne appears in the 6th century in specific Eastern liturgies and, in the 8th century, in Western liturgies. His cult became widespread before the end of the 14th century. Saint Anne is often depicted teaching her daughter to read in the book of the Bible.
Two elderly Japanese spouses who founded an Association named after the parents of the Virgin Mary composed this beautiful prayer:
“O Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, protect our families from promising beginnings to mature age, charged with the sufferings of life, and support them in fidelity to the solemn promises.
Accompany those who, old, approach the encounter with God. Sweeten the passing away, begging for that hour the maternal presence of your beloved daughter, the Virgin Mary, and of her divine Son: Jesus.”
Read also: The Son of God at 12 Years Old
Anne and Joachim are the parents of the Virgin Mary. They are presented in the Gospels as a young girl from Nazareth, the fiancée of Joseph. But in the four Gospels, which are entirely turned towards the Good News of Christ, his life, his words, and his Resurrection, there is no mention of her own family, no doubt also based in Nazareth. Tradition, from the first centuries, calls the parents of the Virgin Mary Joachim (“God grants”) and Anne (“The gracious”).