July 26th - Anne and Joachim
Often the charge of "you're making that up" is leveled at the Church, but come on, everybody has parents, even if we do not know their names (something you will be highly cognizant of if you have ever done genealogy). Mary is definitely the mother of Jesus - Scripture leaves not doubt of that. Two genealogies leave no doubt of Joseph's fathers as well, sort of. But of Mary's ancestry we know very little, except the very early tradition of her parent's names.
Even if we do not know their names, do the man and the woman who raised Mary not deserve our honor? So many parents for millennia have labored in anonymity to mold good and loving children - we can often forget their efforts in our judgment of their children. We value celebrity and notoriety but not the parents who formed that person.
We know that Mary was betrothed when found with child, but how did these parents feel? Did they condemn her? Denounce her? Shame her? Abandon her? I am sure that Joseph, being a righteous man and not wanting to expose her, would not have considered returning her to anything but a loving family.
So we honor Mary's parents, we give them names so that we can identify them and call on them to help us raise children who's response to God's will and call is a resounding: "Yes!"
Joachim and Ann, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him. And so rejoice, Ann, that you were sterile and have not borne children; break forth into shouts, you who have not given birth. Rejoice, Joachim, because from your daughter a child is born for us, a son is given us, whose name is Messenger of great counsel and universal salvation, mighty God. For this child is God. Joachim and Ann, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have born, as the Lord says: By their fruits you will know them. The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body. Joachim and Ann, how chaste a couple! While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity. Rejoice in God, all the earth. Sing, exult and sing hymns. Raise your voice, raise it and not be afraid.
-- From a sermon by St. John Damascene
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