26 JULY: SAINTS JOACHIM AND ANNE
Meditation and Homily
It was in the home of Joachim and Ann where the Virgin Mary received her training to be the Mother of God. This devotion to Ann and Joachim is an extension of the affection Christians have always professed toward our Blessed Mother. Tradition has it that the parents of the Blessed Virgin, who, apparently, first lived in Galilee, came later on to settle in Jerusalem; there the Blessed Virgin was born and reared; there also they died and were buried. A church was built during the fourth century, possibly by St. Helena, on the site of the house of St. Joachim and St. Anne. In the ninth century, the church was converted into a Moslem school. The crypt which formerly contained the holy tombs was rediscovered on 18 March, 1889.
Meditation from Book of Meditations (private collection)
493.1 In the home of Joachim and Ann, the Virgin Mary received the training needed to become the Mother of God.
Devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus has led Christians to want to know as much as possible about Christ’s earthly lineage. Although the Gospels do not mention Mary’s parents, who were our Lord’s grandparents according to the flesh, the Church’s Tradition tells us that they were named Joachim and Ann. The veneration already accorded them in the first centuries of Christianity attests to this fact. From the shoot of Jesse rises King David, an ancient Father of the Church teaches, and our Lady was born of the tribe of David, holy and the daughter of saints. Her parents were Joachim and Ann, who were pleasing to God during their lives and gave birth to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was to be both temple of God and Mother of God. The name Joachim means “preparation for the Lord,” for he was an instrument in preparing the temple of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin. Similarly, the name Ann means “grace.” For Joachim and Ann received the grace to bring forth with prayer a most beautiful offspring. (Pseudo-Epifanio, Homilía in laudes Sancta Mariae Deiparae)
God chose the home of Joachim and Ann as the place for Mary’s birth, where the divine plan of Redemption would begin to be fulfilled. There Mary learned to pray, and developed all those virtues that were so pleasing to the eyes of the Almighty, and that prepared her to answer God’s call. Blessed Joachim and Ann!,exclaims St John Damascene, all creatures owe you a great debt of gratitude because you offered God the Father the most important gift of all: a most pure Mother, the sole creature worthy of bearing the Creator. (Ad Off. lect., L. II, St John Damascene, Hamilía in Nativitatem Beatae Mariae Virginis, 2).
The greatest mission parents can accomplish for their children is to bring them up in holiness, preparing them to become good children of God. Experience shows in all Christian environments what good effects come from this natural and supernatural introduction to the life of piety given in the warmth of the home. Children learn to place God first and foremost in their affections. They learn to see God as their Father and Mary as their Mother and learn to pray following their parents’ example. In this way one can easily see what a wonderful apostolate parents have and how it is their duty to live a fully Christian life of prayer, so they can communicate their love of God to their children, which is something more than just teaching them.
How can they go about this? They have excellent means in the few, short, daily religious practices that have always been lived in Christian families and which I think are marvellous: grace at meals, morning and night prayers, the family rosary (even though nowadays this devotion to our Lady has been criticised by some people)….
I still pray aloud the bedside prayers I learned as a child from my mother’s lips, and I say so with the pride and gratitude of a son. As I offer to God the day that is beginning, or thank him for the day that is drawing to a close, I ask him to increase in heaven the happiness of those whom I especially love and so unite us there forever. (St. Josemaria, Conversations, n. 103)
In a truly Christian home, imbued with a life of piety, the divine grace of a particular vocation takes hold more easily. For this reason, St. Josemaria told us that we owe our parents a considerable measure of our vocation to Opus Dei.
493.2 The debt of gratitude owed to our parents is best repaid with affection and prayer, and by trying to bring them closer to the Work.
Consider for a moment the immense affection our parents showed us even before we were born. How our mothers took care of us even then! How much human care, both natural and supernatural, we owe them! You should never forget this. But neither should we forget the affection God has shown us, who loves us more than all the mothers in the world love their children, and who chose us with special predilection from all eternity. (St. Josemaria, Get-together, 29-VIII-1971)
Our debt of gratitude to our parents grows daily. Besides the gifts of our life and upbringing, we owe them a large part of our divine vocation, as well as the assistance they continue to give us to be faithful and holy. We owe our faith to God our Lord, but our parents have also contributed a lot, even those who might seem a bit negligent. I have often told parents of members of the Work when they expressed regrets, especially at the beginning, about their children’s vocation: Why do you complain? You are the ones to blame for his vocation! You brought your son up as a good Christian—clean, cheerful, generous. I’m not the one who has given him his vocation. God gave it to him, with your help. (St. Josemaria, Get-together, 11-IV-1971)
Our parents’ prayer and affection leads us to want to repay them in kind. Our founder has left us his own example. I always count on the affection and prayers of your parents, who are much better than us, he often told us. May God bless them! I pray for them twice a day, for those still alive and for those who are now close to God in purgatory, waiting to go to him. I always count on the prayer of those who are in heaven, that they may intercede for us; and also of those in purgatory, since they love us; and of those still on earth. For we are all united. (St. Josemaria, Get-together, 14-IX-1973)
Moreover, we try to help our parents share in the great happiness we have found in the Work. Our charity would be disordered if we were to direct our apostolic efforts towards many souls and neglect our families. Justice requires that we seek to bring them closer to Opus Dei. Thus we will fulfill in a refined way the “sweetest precept” of the Decalogue. We must love our parents very much. Otherwise, we don’t have the spirit of Opus Dei. Rely upon your parents. I love them a lot. You should bring them close to the Work, which means bringing them closer to God. Help your parents to love the Work. Let them know that we love them. How can we please God if we abandon the souls of those who have loved us so much on earth and who contributed so much to our vocation, at times without realizing it? (St. Josemaria. Crónica, 1968, p. 1116)
This holy concern of ours should be manifested in specific deeds. We will pray often for them, and write to them regularly, especially when family anniversaries and special events come around. We will keep present their concerns and plans, their needs and hopes. We will help them realize that, although we may be far away, our vocation has strengthened our love for them and made us more united to them than ever.
We often asked our founder how we ought to behave towards our parents. He would tell us: Let them see that you are cheerful, hard working, self-sacrificing. Then even though, as can also happen at times, it may be difficult for them to understand our way, they will end up saying: this son is the light of our home; he is the joy of everyone, he is concerned about everyone…! Behave like that, my children. (St. Josemaria, Get-together, 29-V-1970)
By their fruits you will know them
From homily by Saint John Damascene
Anne was to be the mother of the Virgin Mother of God, and hence nature did not dare to anticipate the flowering of grace. Thus nature remained sterile, until grace produced its fruit. For she who was to be born had to be a first born daughter, since she would be the mother of the first-born of all creation, in whom all things are held together.
Joachim and Anne, 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, Anne, 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 Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, 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 Anne, 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 do not be afraid.
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