Much of the life of the Virgin Mary has been revealed to us from a book known as the "Protoevangelion of James." Although not considered a canonical book of Holy Scripture, it contains vital information pertaining to the life of the Virgin Mary. From this book we also learn about the parents of the Virgin Mary, Ss. Joachim and Anna.
It is important to study this saintly couple for we gain a good understanding of the environment in which the Virgin Mary was born. St. Joachim was of the tribe of Judah and therefore, a descendant of King David. Anna’s family was derived from the tribe of Levi and her father was the high priest Nathan. She also had two sisters: Mary, whose daughter was Salome and Zoia, whose daughter was Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist.
Ss. Joachim and Anna lived pious lives obedient to the teachings of the Old Testament. Whereas the Old Testament prescribed that God’s people should give a tithe (10%) to the Temple (See Leviticus 27:30-34), these saintly people gave one-third of their income to the poor, one-third to the Temple, and one-third was spent on their livelihood.
Unable to bear children, Ss. Joachim and Anna prayed fervently that God bless them with a child. One day they each received a visit from the angel of the Lord who informed them that God had indeed heard their prayer and that it would be granted. Speaking to Anna, the angel said: "Fear not…For I am that angel who has offered up your prayers and alms to God, and am now sent to you, that I may inform you, that a daughter will be born unto you, who shall be called Mary, and shall be blessed above all women…" Rejoicing over this wonderful news, they went to the Temple to offer praise and thanksgiving to God. When their daughter was born nine months later, they offered the child to the Lord and promised to dedicate her to the Temple at the age of three years old. In the Temple, the Virgin Mary was reared in prayer and fasting. Her parents visited her every day until they finally died, St. Joachim at the age of eighty years and St. Anna at seventy-nine.
Christian Orthodox parenthood must be viewed in the light of Stewardship. This beautiful opportunity to study the lives of Ss. Joachim and Anna reminds us that in Christ, we are all one family. God has placed upon us the responsibility to raise our children in the best possible manner. To some parents this may be understood by providing financial security for their children. To others, it may be found in providing a good education. While these are both worthwhile, are they the most important things in life? Of course, we should not neglect the necessary financial needs of our families and we should encourage our children to get the finest education, but there is something greater.
Christian parents will be successful if they educate their child according to the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Family participation in the life of the Church will instill the Christian virtues that are necessary to be happy and content with life. Perhaps it is for this reason that when the Dismissal Prayer is offered in almost every divine service of our Church, we commemorate Ss. Joachim and Anna as a reminder for Christian Orthodox parents to be faithful and obedient to the teachings of our Lord.
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.