Devotion to St. Ann began in Jerusalem, probably at a 5th century basilica near the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus cured the paralyzed man waiting to get into its healing waters. Ruins of the basilica can be seen today in the ruins of the Bethesda pool. The present basilica of St. Ann, begun in the 12th century, stands nearby.
Would the early basilica be near the place where Joachim and Ann lived in the city, or was its site chosen for convenience? The ancient stories of the Protoevangelium associate Mary’s family with the temple and describe Joachim participating in the temple sacrifices. I wonder if we dismiss these stories too quickly as “myths.”
The Protoevangelium says that Mary was presented in the temple and dedicated to God as a child. At the least, this indicates that Mary would be well acquainted with the temple, its worship and the teachings of Judaism. If we accept this reconstruction, Mary would be far from a peasant girl from Nazareth. She would be better formed in Judaism and particularly in temple worship than we sometimes think.
Mary’s family was related to the family of John the Baptist, whose father Zachariah is a priest in the temple. (Luke 1,3-25) They live in the hill country near Jerusalem. Mary’s visit before Jesus’ birth to Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife, connects her closely with them.
Later, as a young boy Jesus engages the teachers of the law on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Luke 2,41-52) He amazes them with his wisdom. Could some of that wisdom have come from a mother’s teaching?
“And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and man,” (Luke 2,52)
Mary and Joseph, Ann and Joachim certainly contributed to his growth.
Today at the novena, I’m going to talk about how Mary and Ann may have taught Jesus about the temple and what to do there. Like them, we must pass on our faith to others, particularly to the next generation.