Tag Archives: Joachim

Ann and Her Daughter Mary

A few years ago on pilgrimage to Jerusalem I visited the western wall that once supported the ancient Jewish temple where Jesus worshipped and taught. He announced that he would replace this temple through the mysteries of his death and resurrection. Some years later, in AD 70, the temple was destroyed.

The day I visited this holy place, Jewish mothers and their daughters were fervently praying at one section of the battered wall, all that’s left of the glorious buildings that once filled pilgrims with awe and pride. I wondered what they were praying for at this majestic ruin.

Tradition says that the parents of Mary, Ann and Joachim, whose feast we celebrate today, were closely connected to the temple of Jerusalem and may have lived near it or in a town close by. Joachim had a role in providing for the temple, tradition says. Like the Jewish women I saw, Ann and her daughter Mary must have prayed often in this holy place.

What did they pray for; what did they believe? God is here, the Prophet Isaiah said; all the peoples of the earth will stream toward this place when the Messiah comes. Pray even when dreams seem gone. God raises up the poorest to do great things. God’s kingdom will come, no matter how dim the present seems. God works even in ruins.

Ann was old when she conceived Mary, tradition says. Too old to conceive. “Nothing is impossible with God,” the angel said to her daughter when she conceived her Son.

We ask the grace to believe and pray as these two women did. I can’t help thinking that the Jewish mothers and their daughters I saw that day praying at the wall are their descendants too.

Passing On The Faith

Basilica of St. Ann, Jerusalem, 11th century

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.

Basilica of St. Ann, Jerusalem