Saint Joachim

General Information

Saint Joachim was the husband of Saint Anne and the father of the Virgin Mary. He is not mentioned in the Bible. The nonbiblical Gospel of James, an apocryphal book, is the only source of information about him. Feast day (shared with Saint Anne): July 26 (Western); Sept. 9 (Eastern).

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Saint Joachim

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(Catholic Perspective)

(First Century B.C.)

In the opinion of St Peter Damian it is unnecessary and blameworthy curiosity to inquire into those things that the evangelists did not tell us, and he specifies the parentage of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an example. In this matter, those who judge differently can receive little satisfaction for their "curiosity ". An apocryphal work, the Protevangelium of James, which, in spite of its name, has none of the authenticity of Holy Scripture, is with other similar apocryphal works the only source of information we have about the parents of Mary ; even their traditional names, Joachim and Anne, must ultimately be traced to them. Of St. Joachim, as of St Anne, we know absolutely nothing with certainty; but we are at liberty to retain as pious beliefs anything in an uncanonical book that does not conflict with the teaching of the Church or with other certain truths, and it is a widely held tradition that our Lady was a child of promise as related in the so-called Gospel of James. This has been referred to herein under St Anne, on July 26.

The feast of both parents of the all-holy Mother of God has been observed in the East, on September 9, from early times, but in the West not till much later. That of St Joachim is not heard of before the fifteenth century, and its present date was fixed only in 1913. The Benedictines, as well as some Eastern Catholics, celebrate Joachim and Anne together, on July 26.

See the bibliographical note under Saint Anne.

St. Joachim

Catholic Information

Joachim (whose name means Yahweh prepares), was the father of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

If we were to obey the warning of St. Peter Damian, we should consider it a blameable and needless curiosity to inquire about those things that the Evangelists did not deem it advisable to relate, and, in particular, about the parents of the Blessed Virgin (Serm. iii de Nativ. B.M.V.). Tradition nevertheless, grounded on very old testimonies, very early hailed Saints Joachim and Anne as the father and mother of the Mother of God. True, this tradition seems to rest ultimately on the so-called "Gospel of James", the "Gospel of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary", and the Pseudo-Matthew, or "Book of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Childhood of the Saviour"; and this origin is likely to rouse well-founded suspicions. It should be borne in mind, however, that the apocryphal character of these writings, that is to say, their rejection from the canon, and their ungenuineness do not imply that no heed whatever should be taken of some of their assertions; side by side, indeed, with unwarranted and legendary facts, they contain some historical data borrowed from reliable traditions or documents; and difficult though it is to distinguish in them the wheat from the tares, it would be unwise and uncritical indiscriminately to reject the whole. Some commentators, who believe that the genealogy given by St. Luke is that of the Blessed Virgin, find the mention of Joachim in Heli (Luke 3:23; Eliachim, i.e. Jeho-achim), and explain that Joseph had, in the eyes of the law, become by his marriage the son of Joachim. That such is the purpose and the meaning of the Evangelist is very doubtful, and so is the identification proposed between the two names Heli and Joachim. Neither can it be asserted with certainty, in spite of the authority of the Bollandists, that Joachim was Heli's son and Joseph's brother; nor, as is sometimes affirmed, from sources of very doubtful value, that he had large possessions in herds and flocks. Much more interesting are the beautiful lines in which the "Gospel of James" describes how, in their old age, Joachim and Anne received the reward of their prayers to obtain issue. 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, known at various epochs as St. Mary, St. Mary ubi nata est, St. Mary in Probatica, Holy Probatica, St. Anne, was built during the fourth century, possibly by St. Helena, on the site of the house of St. Joachim and St. Anne, and their tombs were there honoured until the close of the ninth century, when the church was converted into a Moslem school. The crypt which formerly contained the holy tombs was rediscovered on 18 March, 1889.

St. Joachim was honoured very early by the Greeks, who celebrate his feast on the day following the Blessed Virgin's birthday; the Latins were slow to admit it to their calendar, where it found place sometimes on 16 Sept. and sometimes on 9 Dec. Assigned by Julius II to 20 March, the solemnity was suppressed some fifty years later, restored by Gregory XV (1622), fixed by Clement XII (1738) on the Sunday after the Assumption, and finally raised to the rank of double of the second class by Leo XIII (1 Aug., 1879).

Publication information Written by Charles L. Souvay. Transcribed by Paul T. Crowley. In Memoriam, Mr. Francis Crowley & Mr. Francis McHugh The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Sts Joachim and Anna,
parents of Blessed Mary (Theotokos)

Orthodox Information

Commemorated September 9

So much attention is paid by Christians to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, sanctified in every conceivable way, that there is a tendency to overlook her parents. Commemorated the day after the commemoration of their daughter, who is remembered on other days as well, Joachim and Anna were the parents of a flesh-and-blood human being they called Mary and, therefore, the grandparents of a flesh-and-blood human being, in form at least, who died to save the world.

Considered in this light, this couple is appreciated most by the grandfathers and grandmothers of the world.

The spiritual beauty of St Anna is expressed in the Bible, equalled by that of her devoted husband, the too lightly regarded Joachim. Since there is no greater part of the divine plan of the universe than motherhood, it follows that St. Anna is given individual honour with an observance of a feast day in her name on July 26. This in no way diminishes the image of her husband St Joachim.

Shrouded by twenty centuries of legend, close scrutiny by biblical scholars has cleared away legend and established a more accurate and factual account, however meager, of Sts Joachim and Anna. There is no denying the word of the Apostle James, who saw fit to go to great lengths to glean facts about the parents of Mary which he describes in a letter that somehow failed to find official acceptance.

Conflicting views notwithstanding, it is definitely known that St Anna was of the prestigious Hebrew tribe of Levi and that she was the daughter of the high priest Nathan, wed to a namesake Mary. This high priest had two daughters besides the Mary who mothered Anna. They were called Sovin and Anna, both of whom became mothers in Bethlehem, but Anna was married in Galilee where Mary, the Theotokos, was born. There is no denying Joachim was favored of God, who answered his prayer that a child be born to the barren union with Anna. The answer was Mary, of course, and thereafter was set in motion the world's greatest faith, so overwhelming that St Joachim fades from view in misty swirls that surround the sweet mysteries of Christianity. It is enough to know St Joachim was the father of Mary, the mother who bore Jesus Christ, the divine Saviour who changed the course of world history and set it on another path which, if followed, leads to eternal life.

The fact that God moves in a mysterious way was evident when Joachim and Anna prayed for a child they knew not whether they were being granted a son or a daughter so they had no knowledge of what lay in store for them and for the world. The Apostle James has quoted an angel of the Lord as saying to Anna, "the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive and bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world". There was no mention of the sex of the child as the Apostle James goes on to say that Anna accepted with the words, "As the Lord my God lives if I beget male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister holy things to him all the days of its life". The use of the word "it" indicates Anna may have had premonitions but certainly no advance notice that 'it' was to be 'she', who in turn knowingly brought forth the Son of God. Indeed God does move in a mysterious way.

The Greek Orthodox Church has a hymn which sings gloriously, "As we celebrate the remembrance of your righteous grandparents, through them we beseech you, O Lord, to save our souls".

There can be no more touching tribute than to be sung in praise and prayer in the sacred music of the Church. Another hymn contains the words, "Anna rejoices now that she is loosed from the bonds of barrenness, as she nourisheth the most pure one, calling all to praise him who has given the world her who alone is Mother, yet has known no man".

The names of Joachim and Anna are an integral part of the Divine Liturgy, always mentioned in the prayerful conclusion of services with the words, "May the risen Christ, our true God, with the prayers of his pure and holy Mother, the power of the precious and life-giving Cross, the protection of the spiritual powers of Heaven ... the holy and righteous ancestors Joachim and Anna ... and all the saints whose memory we celebrate have mercy on us and save us".

Dismissal Hymn (First Tone)Troparion - Tone 1

Since you were righteous under the law of grace, O Joachim and Anna, for our sake you gave birth to the God-given Infant. The divine Church today therefore feasts radiantly, joyfully celebrating your honourable memory and giving glory to God Who has raised up a horn of salvation from the house of David!

Kontakion (Second Tone)

Now Anna is no longer barren and nurses the All-Pure One! She rejoices and calls us to sing a hymn of praise to Christ Who gave mankind the only Ever-Virgin Mother!

Also, see:
Saint Anne

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