The Holy Parents of Mary: Saints Joachim and Ann
In fine, the appointed time approaching, God sent into the world two brilliant flambeaux, to announce the coming dawn of the Sun of Justice, Jesus, our Saviour. These were St. Joachim and St. Ann, whom the Divine Will had prepared and created to be the parents of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God. Joachim, with his parents and friends, lived in Nazareth, a small town of Galilee.
He was a just and holy man, enlightened in a special manner with regard to the mysteries of the Holy Scriptures and the meaning of the prophecies. St. Ann dwelt in Bethlehem; she was humble, chaste and beautiful, and had also received great infused lights as to the meaning of the prophecies. The Archangel Gabriel was sent in corporeal form to bid her accept Joachim for her spouse. A short time afterwards, he was sent to Joachim, to command him in a dream to choose St. Ann for his wife. The marriage was solemnized without their having revealed this command to each other. The holy spouses dwelt in Nazareth, following the ways of the Lord, and performing their actions with all possible perfection. Every year they divided their revenue into three parts: the first, they offered to the Temple; the second, they distributed among the poor; the third, they reserved for the moderate support of the family.
The holy spouses lived together for twenty years without having any children. This drew upon them the contempt of their neighbors, for it was a belief among the Jews that those who had no children would have no share in the future Messias. Even the priests rebuked them, and once, when Joachim had entered the Temple to pray, a priest named Issachar sent him away, reproaching him as being sterile, and therefore unworthy to offer sacrifice.
Much afflicted, the holy man retired to his house and prayed with tears that the Lord would give him a child, which, at the same time, he vowed to consecrate to the Temple. The Angel of the Lord appeared to St. Ann and declared to her the will of the Lord that she should ask for offspring. She obeyed, and promised that the fruit of her womb should be consecrated to the service of the Most High.
The prayers of these holy spouses ascended before the throne of the Divine Majesty, and the Archangel Gabriel was sent to St. Joachim. “The Most High,” said he, “has heard thy prayer. Ann, thy wife, shall conceive and bring forth a daughter, who shall be blessed among women, and whom all nations shall acknowledge to be blessed. The Lord wills that she shall be consecrated to Him in the Temple, even from her infancy.”
At the same time, St. Ann, being raised into sublime contemplation and absorbed in the mystery of the Incarnation, prayed most fervently that she might be permitted to behold and serve the holy woman destined to be the Mother of the promised Messias. Then it was that the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she herself was to be the Mother of the most holy Mother of the Divine Word. Filled with inexpressible joy and surprise, she hastened to the Temple to offer her thanksgiving to the Lord. She met St. Joachim and told him of the Angel’s promise; both entered the Temple to renew their vows and give thanks to the Author of all these wonders. They returned to their house, conversing on the signal favors they had received from the Most High, and they communicated to each other the first visit of the Angel, as also the order they had received to espouse each other, which they had hitherto concealed.
The prudent Ann did not discover to her husband that the promised child was destined to be the Mother of the Messias, because the Archangel had forbidden her to reveal it. The fullness of the time being arrived, the three Divine Persons, according to our manner of thinking, spoke thus among Themselves: “It is time that We commence the accomplishment of Our good pleasure, and create that pure creature who is dearer to Us than all others; she must be exempt from the ordinary laws of the generation of mortals, so that the seed of the infernal serpent shall have no part in her. It is fitting that the Divinity should clothe her in very pure matter, never sullied by sin; Our justice and providence demand that which is most fit, most perfect, and most holy; all this shall be accomplished, because nothing can resist Our will.
The Word, who is to become man and the Master of all creatures, will teach them more effectually to honor her whom He has chosen for His Mother; among the dignities which He will confer on her, the first shall be that of never being subdued by her enemies. As He is to be the Redeemer of mankind, it is fit that He should exercise that office first in regard of His own Mother. She must have a particular redemption, and by this, be preserved beforehand from all sin; thus she shall be always pure and immaculate, and the Son of God will rejoice at beholding between His terrestrial Mother and His Heavenly Father, the closest resemblance possible between God and His creature.” Such was the decree manifested to the blessed spirits by the three Divine Persons. Prostrate before the divine throne, with great humility, they praised God, and rendered most fervent thanks because He was pleased to grant the prayer they had made before the great battle with Lucifer, when they had begged for the accomplishment of the mystery of the Incarnation, which had been revealed to them. With a holy emulation, each desired to be employed in the court of the Son of God and His most pure and holy Mother.
Twenty years had passed by since the marriage of St. Joachim and St. Ann: Joachim was then sixty years old, and Ann forty-four. According to the divine promise, they engendered, in a manner truly wonderful, a child who was to be the Mother of God. Everything happened as in other conceptions; nevertheless, the virtue of the Most High removed everything imperfect or inordinate, in order that, according to the laws of nature, the most perfect body ever created should be formed free from the least imperfection. The divine virtue is revealed principally in the miraculous operations which removed from St. Ann her natural sterility, yet it was still more marvelous in removing from her holy parents all trace of sin, that the sting of Original Sin should have no share in her.
This article is taken from a chapter in The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin by Ven. Mary of Agreda which is available from TAN Books.