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Saint Anna & Saint Joachim

Real Woman, Real Mother
by Dr. Virginia M. Kimball | Source: ESBVM.org

Mary Channel / Catholic.net
Virginia M. Kimball

All children are conceived by a mother and a father as designed by God in Genesis:

So God created mankind in God’s own image, in the image of God did God create the human – male and female God created them.  And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth (Genesis 1:27-28).” 

We observe a double emphasis in God’s plan.  First, God is at the center of creation’s design as seen in the multiple references in this biblical passage  to “God.”  The second emphasis is unavoidable.  God’s intention is to cooperate with mankind in filling the earth with life.  In this cooperation, mankind is given dominion or care of the creation and its coming generations of people who are to populate the earth.   

Anna and Joachim, man and wife, were two faithful Israelites who invested all their trust in Yahweh.  But when Joachim came to bring his offerings to God on an important feast day, he was brought to shame by his fellow temple members. It had been noticed that Joachim and Anna were not fruitful and had no child. 

The Bible tells us nothing about this situation, but we learn about it in a writing called the Proto-Gospel of James.  It is scripture in the sense that it offers details that are related to Jesus, but it is not “holy scripture” or biblical text because it isn’t considered to be a writing necessarily inspired by God.  

Joachim is so shamed that he went to the wilderness to pray (a form of penance in that day) where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. The account records his penitent feelings: “prayer will be my food and drink.”

And Anna felt shamed as well.  She mourned and sang lamentations unto God but then decided to dress herself like a bride. This is an interesting image because biblically it means she turned and put all her hopes in God’s hands like a spouse would do.

Anna then encountered God in her prayer in a garden (sound familiar?) and seeing a bird in a laurel tree she began to bemoan her lack of fruitfulness.  “Even the birds are fruitful for you, God” she prayed.  (Can you see the connection to Genesis?)  “I’m not like the earth because the earth bears fruit in season.” 

In their dismay, Joachim and Anna placed themselves in the hands of God.  The answer came to both of them.  They would conceive a child and she would be “talked about in the entire world.”

The little child who came was Mary. And, indeed, she was to be special.  Joachim and Anna thanked God by dedicating little Mary to God.  This story resounds in the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel.

It is interesting to note that in ancient days names often held deep meanings.  The name “Anna” is a form of “Hannah.”
“Hannah had no children … and her rival (her husband’s other wife) used to provoke her sorely and to tease her because Yahweh had closed Hannah’s womb. And this continued for years. … Hannah wept and would not eat (1 Samuel 1:3-8).” 

But Hannah turned to God also, promising that if she could become pregnant she would give her child to the LORD (vs. 11).  Hannah prayed so fervently that the priest Eli thought she was drunk.  But God answered the young woman’s prayer and gave her a pregnancy. 

Hannah’s son was to be the great judge and prophet Samuel. Hannah dedicated him to God’s house at Shiloh even when her baby boy was little. She said, “For this child I prayed and the LORD has heard and granted my plea (vs. 27).”

Then Hannah sang a song of love and thankfulness to Yahweh.  It is mysteriously much like Mary’s song of happiness over the Child in her womb, God’s gift of life to the world. This song found in Luke is the Magnificat (1 Samuel 2:1-10/Luke 1:46-55).
Connections abound.  Joachim and Anna pledge their child to the temple who is to be the mother who will bear God Himself into the world.  Mary is dedicated to Yahweh in the temple just as Hannah had brought her son Samuel to the LORD.

All in all, one biblical account informs another and we see that God’s design of life flourishes. Mary is dedicated to Yahweh and she will cooperate in bringing life to the earth. Her Son, the son of God, brings eternal life which is God’s enduring plan. 

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