26Jul July 26. Thursday. Ss Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Memorial)

Jer. 2:1-2; 7-8; 12-13: The Lord says: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride.

Matt. 13:10-17. Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see.

Jesus had Grandparents

For a vivid 2nd-century account of the Virgin Mary’s parents and her earliest days, see the Protevangelium of James. This devotional text is certainly worth reading on the feast. While the account may be largely legendary, and formed in deliberate parallel to some biblical prototypes, notably borrowing from the Gospel Infancy Narratives, it probably contains elements of genuine oral tradition, to help us form a mental picture of the kind of family life lived by Jesus’ grandparents.

The childless state of Joachim and Anna is vividly described in the opening paragraphs. “Joachim was very grieved, and went to consult the registers of the twelve tribes of the people, saying: “I will see whether I am the only one not to have procreated in lsrael.” He searched and found that all the righteous in lsrael had raised up posterity. He called to mind about the patriarch Abraham, how at the very end God granted him a son, Isaac. And Joachim was very grieved, and did not come into his wife’s presence but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying to himself: “I will take neither food nor drink until the Lord my God looks upon me, and prayer will be my food and drink.”

Now his wife Anna mourned twice as much, and doubly lamented, saying: “I will grieve for being a widow as well as being childless.” But … though she was still very grieved, she put off her mourning garments and washed her head, and put on her finery and went down to the garden to walk. There she saw a laurel tree, under which she sat and said this prayer to the Lord, “O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as you blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son, Isaac.”

As preparation for the homily, one might read the rest of the Protevangelium, which was read with devotion by many generations of Christians, to indicate the special circumstances surrounding Our Lady’s birth.

First Reading: Jeremiah 2:1-2; 7-8; 12-13

The word of the Lord came to me, saying: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.

I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage a abomination.

The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

Gospel: Matthew 13:10-17.

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

4 Responses

  1. Gerard george

    Why are we relying on legends and not Truth?

    Gerard, a catholic

  2. Ann Lardeur

    Basically, Gerard, apart from obvious that there is nothing else, it is because some people asked questions, some used their imaginations and wrote them down at an early date. e.g. What did Jesus do as a child – “he made small birds out of clay, blessed them and they flew away”. I think it is in a hymn somewhere, but origin in is these pious fictions. I wonder what it was like for Mary growing up; what were Jesus’s grandparent lives like? I believe their exists a 3 volume “Life of St. Joseph” about whom we know so little.

    I am writing from memory without time to hunt for texts. Whilst traditionally St. Joseph holds lilies, explained as symbol of purity, I have a hunch the origin may well also be found in Protevangelium of St.James. There are two versions of Joseph learning he is the one chosen to marry Mary. Both versions have a number of suitable candidates being summoned to the temple (I seem to remember it is by High Priest). They are told to plant their staves in the ground. In one version Joseph’s staff flowers and that is the sign. The lily branch does not seem very far removed from a flowering staff. In the other Joseph realise he is it and refused to plant his staff. In this version the sign changes – the man who does not plant his staff is the chosen one. Heads God wins, tails Joseph loses.

    It my feast day today – I did briefly share it with a Joachim – a Benedictine. It was his religious name but he has now reverted to his baptismal name.

    There are some charming stories in the work and it is not that long so worth a read.

  3. Soline Humbert

    Good to see a biblical couple rejoicing in being blessed with the birth of …a daughter!

  4. Soline Humbert

    Correction: Not quite a biblical couple, only Protoevangelium…Still a breakthrough in a patriarchal society. Some day our church might also come to see women priests not as a headache but a blessing!…