The Lives of Saint Anne and Saint Joachim
The Posterity of the race of Adam spread out in great number, the just and the unjust were multiplied. The clamors of the just for the coming of the Redeemer increased. In this time of the ancient laws God sent two bright luminaries to announce the approaching dawn of the Son of Justice, Christ our salvation. These were Saint Joachim and Saint Anne.
Anne’s parents were Eliud and Ismeria. At the age of four Anne went to live in the temple, remaining there for twelve years, returning to her parents at age 16. One year later as her mother lay dying she called Anne to her bedside and left her as the future mistress of the household and told her she must marry as she was a vessel of the promise.
Saint Joachim had his home, family and relations in Nazareth, a town of Galilee. He was a just and holy man and illumined by special grace and light from on high, had a knowledge of many mysteries of the holy scriptures and of the olden prophets. In continual and fervent prayer he asked God the fulfillment of his promises and his faith and charity penetrated the heavens. He was a man most humble and pure leading a holy and sincere life, yet he was most grave and earnest and incomparably modest and honest. He was of the line of David.
The most chaste Anne was a humble and beautiful maiden. From her childhood she lead a virtuous, holy life and attained perfection in exalted contemplation. Infused with the virtues of faith, hope and charity she continued to pray for the coming of the Messiah.
Saint Anne also prayed fervently to God to obtain a husband who would help her in the fulfillment of the ancient law. At that same moment Joachim made the same petition and it was divinely disposed that Joachim and Anne unite in marriage and become the parents of Her, who was to become the mother of the Incarnate God. The angel Gabriel was sent to announce this divine decree to them both. To Saint Anne he appeared in visible form while she was engaged in fervent prayer. When she saw this holy prince she was frightened and yet enlightened. He told her to continue to pray for the coming of the Redeemer and that it was God’s will that she accept Joachim as her Spouse. He did not manifest to Anne at that time that she was to be the mother of Mary, Mother of God. To Saint Joachim the angel appeared in his sleep and said, “Joachim be thou blest by God most high! It is the will of the Almighty that thou receive Anne as thy spouse. Take care of her and esteem her as a pledge of the Most High and give thanks to His Majesty, because He has given her into thy charge.” In consequence of this divine message Joachim and Anne espoused each other but neither manifested the secret of the angel until many years later.
Anne was 18 when she married Joachim and they lived in her father’s home for seven years. It was here that her first, little known daughter was born. She was called Mary Heli. After 7 years Anne and Joachim moved into a home of their own. Anne’s father, Eliud, divided his goods with them. Their daughter, Mary Heli, stayed to live with her grandfather Eliud. Upon withdrawing from the paternal house their design was to live in privacy, to begin their married life anew. In sincerity they practiced all virtues and were pleasing to God. Each year they divided the income and rents of their estate into three parts, the first part was given to the temple for the worship of the Lord, the second was distributed to the poor and the third, they retained for themselves. This amount was always replenished the next year. In spite of their wealth they lived frugally. Anne often ate nothing but cold victuals but treated her domestics generously.
Anne had much to endure from an insolent maidservant who bitterly taunted her with her sterility. Many of their acquaintances upbraided them because of their sterility also, which they attributed to some wickedness. They said the child living with Eliud was not really Anne’s daughter, otherwise she would have her with her. To them sterility seemed toe worst stigma because it cut them off from that lineal descent from which the Messiah must come.
And thus they lived for 20 years after the birth of their first daughter yet always accepting their crosses and enduring the pain in a spirit of patience and prayer. They needed this long purification to be judged worthy of giving birth to the Immaculate Conception to her who, at the very moment she began life was already more pure and holy than the brightest of seraphim.
One feast day Joachim went to the temple to offer sacrifice to the Lord. He was harshly rebuffed by the High Priest Ruben who rejected his offerings and told him that childless couples were unworthy to present themselves before Jehovah. Humiliated and distressed Joachim did not return home but went to the mountains to pray for 40 days.
Anne prayed fervently and besought God not to separate her from Joachim when an angel appeared to her and told her to set her heart at rest for the Lord had heard her prayer. She should on the following morning go to the Temple in Jerusalem, that there under the Golden Gate she would meet Joachim who was now on his way thither and that he (the angel) would appear to him also and now his offerings would be accepted.
The angel appeared to Joachim and commanded him to go to the temple. Joachim was troubled and felt timid about going there but the angel assured him that the priest had been enlightened in his regard.
When he arrived at the temple with a large herd of cattle two priests acting on Divine inspiration came out to meet him. His offerings were accepted and he was led into the temple where he prayed in ecstasy all night. The angel spoke: “Anne will conceive an immaculate child from whom the redeemer of the world will be born.” The angel told him not to grieve over his sterility which was not a disgrace to him but a glory, for that what his spouse would conceive should not be from him but through him, a fruit from God. Then the angel removed the treasure from the ark of the covenant and inserted it into Joachim’s garment and it entered his body.
Joachim was afterward conducted by the priest to the entrance of the subterranean passage that ran under the Temple and under the Golden Gate. The Prophetess Anna also conducted Anne down this same passageway. Joachim and Anne met under the Golden Gate. At that moment they embraced in ecstasy and the light shone around them, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was accomplished. (All men would have been conceived this way if it hadn’t been for the sin of Adam.) At the same moment the heavens above opened and the Holy Trinity and angels rejoiced over the Immaculate Conception of Mary who was to be the Mother of God. She was formed in the blood of Saint Anne just as the God-man was formed in the blood of Mary. In both cases the Holy Spirit entered in and worked a tremendous miracle of grace, (the Immaculate Conception is inseparable from the Incarnation). At the moment of conception, Anne and Joachim gave to Mary the flesh and blood which they had received from their forebearers in the line of David. Mary was Immaculate at conception and in consequence her parents were the ministers of God in accomplishing a work which will remain unique in the history of the world.
After returning home the holy couple published the mercy of God. They lived in perfect continence and great fear of God.
Throughout the nine months that followed many prophets spoke of the approaching birth of the Virgin and there were many signs and symbols concerning it. On the eve of Mary’s birth all nature rejoiced. Men and beasts were stirred to joy. The possessed became furious and uttered loud cries. The devils cried out, “We must withdraw and scramble to hell”. The 3 Kings saw visions of the birth in the stars. Idols were hurled to the ground and dashed to pieces. Wicked hearts were changed. Crowds gathered around Anne’s home because many had seen a light over it and also Anne’s child was considered a blessing.
Several days before the birth of Mary, Anne told Joachim her delivery was at hand. She sent for 3 holy women to come and be with her. Joachim sent the men-servants to the field and disposed of the domestics. Joachim also went to the fields to pray. When the women arrived Anne embraced them and greeted them with a Psalm. “Praise God the Lord. He has had pity on His people and has freed Israel. Truly He has fulfilled the promise that he made to Adam in Paradise. The seed of the woman shall crush the serpents head.” “The germ that God gave to Abraham has ripened in me. The promise made to Sara and the Blossom of Aaron’s rod are fulfilled in me”. Anne was shining with light and the women were amazed. They ate and prayed and later laid down to rest. In her chamber Anne continued to pray before a little altar on which she had spread some relics. After midnight she felt her time was near and roused the women to pray with her. They knelt before the shrine and now a supernatural light filled the chamber and hovered around Anne. The 3 women fell prostrate as if stunned. Anne was enveloped in the light and soon received the shining child Mary into her arms. She wrapped her in her mantle and pressed her to her heart and went on in her prayer.
The holy women arose and took the child into their arms. They wept and sang songs of praise. The chamber was filled with angels who sang Gloria and Alleluia. One of the women went to call Joachim. He entered, knelt by Anne’s couch, and his tears fell in torrents over the child. He took it up and held it aloft and sang a canticle of praise. The days that followed were filled with much rejoicing and people flocked in great numbers to see the child Mary.
Many ceremonies followed rejoicing over this special birth and the child was given the name Mary.
It is the teaching of theologians that Mary received the full use of reason from the first moment of her life. She was enlightened by God on the supernatural. Anne introduced her to earthly knowledge.
When she was in her 4th year she made a vow to enter the temple and live as a temple virgin. Anne busied herself making preparations for the presentation of Mary. Saint Joachim prepared a large herd of his best cattle for an offering.
As Mary entered the temple the priest examined her to see whether she was sufficiently mature to be admitted. It was very grave and solemn but at times interrupted by tears of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. The priests were filled with admiration. Zachary saw in her the mystery of the ark of the covenant. Many recognized her as a child of the promise, yet she deemed herself the least of all.
Joachim wept many tears in leaving her at the temple saying he feared he would never see her again. He pressed her to his heart and said weeping, “Remember my soul before God.”
While in the temple the maidens occupied themselves with embroidery, cleansing the priestly garments and vessels and in prayer and meditation. They were entirely dedicated to the Lord. Mary lived this life in all perfection, humility and virtue. She was often seized with longing for the Messiah and often prayed that she might see the child. She often shed tears of longing for the promised Saviour.
During these years Mary spent in the temple we know little of the life of Joachim and Anne.
At the age of fourteen Mary was told she must be married. She grieved at the thought of leaving the temple. Saint Anne went to Jerusalem to be with her. All the unmarried men from the House of David were summoned to the temple. The High Priest gave each one a branch which was to be held during the offering of prayer and sacrifice. Joseph’s blossomed into a white lily. Mary accepted him in obedience as her spouse. They were espoused on January 23. Saint Anne prepared a house for them in Nazareth. Mary and Joseph received all they needed from Anne.
Saint Anne visited the crib cave but there was no mention of Saint Joachim there. He died soon after witnessing the presentation of Jesus in the temple. His feast day is July 26. Saint Anne had another child “Mary” (she was the mother of 3 Marys) by her second husband. By her third husband she had a son who was known as the brother of Christ. There was a mystery connected with Anne’s repeated marriages. She entered into them in obedience to the Divine command. The graces by which she became fruitful with Mary had not yet been exhausted. It was as if the blessings had to be consumed.
She lived until Jesus was 8 years old and was 56 years old. She died in the arms of her most beloved daughter Immaculate Mary. Jesus, Mary and Joseph assisted at her death. We celebrate Saint Anne’s feast day July 26.
She is the patroness of housewives, women in labor, cabinet makers and miners. Her emblem is a door. The tomb of Saint Anne and Saint Joachim was rediscovered in Jerusalem in 1889. There are many Shrines of Saint Anne. The most widely known is Saint Anne De Beaupre in Quebec, Canada. Many cures and miracles are attributed to her intercession. We are most fortunate to have these powerful saints as patrons of our parish. Pray to them often!
Life of Christ by Ven. Anne
The Life of Saint Anne by Eugene Lefavore
Lives of the Saints by Father Joseph Vann, ofm
Dictionary of Saints by John J. Delaney