December 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm #17936
THE FULL CHRISTMAS STORY
Joachim, Anna, Mary, Joseph and Jesus
JOACHIM AND ANNA
Story of Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Virgin Mary first appears in the apocryphal Gospel of James. Joachim and Anna are not mentioned in the Bible. Anna was born in Bethlehem, and she married Joachim who was of Galilee and of the town of Nazareth. Both were of the tribe of Judah, and descendants of King David. According to the histories of the twelve tribes of Israel, Joachim was a very wealthy and pious man. He brought his offerings twofold to the Lord, saying to himself, “This from my abundance will be for all the people, and this which I owe as a sin offering will be for the Lord God as a propitiation for me.”
Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, of the tribe of Levi as was Aaron the High Priest. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Zoia, and Anna. Mary married in Bethlehem and bore Salome; Zoia was also married in Bethlehem and bore Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner; and Anna was married in Nazareth to Joachim They lived devoutly and quietly, using only a third of their income for themselves and giving a third to the poor and a third to the Temple. Joachim had done this since he was 15-years-old, and God multiplied his flocks, so the couple was well provided for. They longed for a child but remained childless into their old age, fifty years after they married. They made a vow to the lord that if He granted them offspring, they would dedicate it to the service of God. For this, they went to Jerusalem to celebrate the three principal feasts of each year. And once, when Joachim and his kinsmen went up to Jerusalem at the feast of the Dedication, he approached the altar with them, in order to offer his sacrifice to God, the High Priest, Issachar angrily drove him away, “You are not worthy to offer sacrifice with those childless hands.” The priest upbraided Joachim for daring to draw near the altar of God that a childless man, who gave no increase to the people of God, should stand among men who bore sons calling it unseemly that one who lay under the curse of the Law should offer sacrifice to the Lord. Others who had children jostled Joachim, thrusting him back as unworthy. In despair, he consulted the geneological records of the tribes of Israel and discovered every righteous man in the nation had been blessed with children, except him. This caused the aged saint great grief, and he and his wife left with heavy hearts
Deeply ashamed, Joachim left the city. In the desert he pitched a tent, saying, “I shall fast and do penance until the Lord deems me worthy.” He went into the desert and fasted for 40 days and nights. Anna wept to see her husband go.
But one day when he was alone, God sent the Archangel Gabriel to him, surrounded by dazzling light. He was affrighted at the vision, but the angel bade him be without fear, saying: “I, the Lord’s angel, am sent to thee, to announce to thee that they prayers are granted, and thine almsworks have ascended in the sight of the Lord. I have seen thy shame, and heard the reproach of barrenness wrongfully cast upon thee. For God indeed punishes not nature, but sin; and therefore, when He closes a womb, it is only that He may later open it more wondrously, and that all may know that what is born thereof is not the fruit of lust but of the divine munificence. Did not Sara, the first mother of your race, bear the shame of barrenness until her ninetieth year, and yet bear Isaac, to whom was promised the blessing of all nations? Did not Rachel also long remain barren, and yet beget Joseph, who was the ruler of all of Egypt? Who was stronger than Samson or holier than Samuel son of Hannah? Yet both of these were the sons of barren mothers! Therefore believe my words and these examples: those conceived after long delay, and begotten of sterile mothers, are wont to be admirable! Thus Anna thy wife will bear thee a daughter, and thou shalt call her name Mary. In accordance with your vow, she shall be consecrated to the Lord from her infancy, and shall be filled with the Holy Spirit from her mother’s womb; nor shall she abide without, among the common folk, but within the Temple of the Lord, lest aught of evil be thought of her. And as she will be born of a barren mother, so will she herself, in wondrous wise, beget the Son of the Most High. Whose name will be called Jesus, and through whom salvation will come to all nations! And this will be a sign to thee: when thou shalt come to the Gold Gate of Jerusalem, Anna thy wife will meet thee there, who now grieves at thy tarrying, and then will rejoice to see thee!” And with these words the angel left him.
All alone, she went into the garden and sat down beneath the laurel tree. Looking toward the heavens, she saw a nest of sparrows in the tree. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes. How she longed to have a child of her own. Anna entreated the Lord, saying” Woe is me! To what am I likened? I am not likened to this earth, for even the earth brings forth her fruit in its season and blesses you, O Lord.” And behold an angel of the Lord appeared, saying “Anna, the Lord God heard your prayer, and you will conceive and give birth, and your offspring shall be spoken of in the whole inhabited world.” Anna said, “As the Lord my God lives, if I give birth, whether male or female, I will present it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall be a ministering servant to him all the days of its life.”: And behold two angels came saying to her “Behold your husband Joachim is coming with his flocks.” Anna ran and throw her arms around his neck saying “Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me very greatly, for behold the widow is no longer a widow, and she who was barren has conceived.”
Joachim and Anna took Mary, at the age of three, to the temple to be dedicated to the service of the Lord, and presented her to the priest Zechariahs. The parents then, after offering up her sacrifice (according to the custom of the time), left the Virgin with other maidens in the apartments of the temple to be brought up therein.
Let us look then at the life of Mary.
Anna gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, in gratitude to the Lord, Joachim vowed that once the child turned three years old, she would be sent to the Temple to be educated.
When she was six months old her mother stood her on the ground to see if she could stand. Walking seven steps, she came to her mother’s bosom. Anna held the baby to her and said, “As the Lord is my God, and He has sent me a miraculous child.” Anna then caught her up, saying “as the Lord my God lives, you shall not walk on this earth again until I bring you to the Temple of the Lord”. Then she made a sanctuary in her bedroom and prohibited everything common and unclean from passing through it.
When the child was three years old, Joachim said, “let us call the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews and let each one take a torch and let them be burning in order that the child not turn back and her heart be misled out of the Temple of the Lord”. Thus they did, until they had gone up into the Temple.
The priest received her, and kissing her he blessed her and said, “The Lord God has magnified your name in all generations, in you at the end of todays will the Lord God manifest his deliverance to the children of Israel”. He set her on the third step of the alter, and the Lord God gave grace to her, and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. At last it was time for Mary to climb the steps to the Temple. A halo of light encircled the blessed child and filled with joy, she began to dance. The child’s bright spirit could not be contained anymore than the sun can be kept from rising. Her parents returned marvelling and giving praise and glorifying the Lord God that the child did not turn back.
One day Zaccharia, the chief priest overseeing Mary’s education was discussing the scriptures with a small group of holy men. The child sat beside him, for already she was a great favourite with these revered elders. “The Lord made us to serve Him,” Zaccharia declared.
“And to glory in His kindness,” said Mary softly. Startled, the old priest looked at her. “The little one is fearless and yet all gentleness,” he told himself as the others exchanged smiles.
“The Lord can be merciful. That is true Mary,” he replied. “You are wise, for one so young.”
“Is it wisdom, good father, to see what is all around us?” asked the child. “The Lord must love us very much to have given us this earthly paradise to look after.”
When her chores were done, in the remaining hours of each day she went out alone just beyond the gates of the Temple. There she would distribute food and clothing to the poor and the elderly who came hoping for charity. In time the other girls followed her example, and the Temple became known far and wide for its generosity.
One day, as she bathed the brow of a young girl so sick with fever that she was not expected to survive the night. Mary heard angelic singing. She looked to her patient, wondering if the girl had heard it too. No, her friend was sleeping peacefully for the first time in days. Touching the girl’s forehead, Mary realised that the fever had passed. Surely it was a miracle – the girl would recover, just as Mary prayed she would. “Mary,” a voice suddenly said. “The Lord has seen fit to bring you into this world without the stain of sin. And you use His good favor to help others. By doing so you honour Him greatly.”
When Mary turned fourteen, Zaccharia told her, “It is customary for all young maidens at your age to marry.” That night an angel appeared to the old priest in a dream and said, “Do not worry, Zaccharia. Tomorrow have each suitor bring with him a staff. The Holy Spirit will give a sign as to who shall be Mary’s husband.”
The next day the suitors crowded into the Temple, each holding a staff in his hand. Kneeling, they prayed for a sign. All at once a lily was seen to bloom from the staff held by the widower Joseph, a builder and carpenter. And then a snow white dove alighted upon the staff before flying off. “How can it be that the Lord has chosen me?” Joseph said, astonished “I have been widowed for some time and have sons nearly as old as this tender young girl.” But Zaccharia shook his head “The Lord has given a sign, Joseph.” And turning to Mary the priest asked “Mary what is your wish?” Moved by the events and Joseph’s humble words, Mary extended her hand to Joseph, saying, “I accept.”
That day the marriage contract was signed, and in twelve months the wedding ceremony would be celebrated. In the meantime, Mary returned to her parents while Joseph departed for a distant town where he was about to begin work on the building of a Temple. The commission was a great honour, but it would separate the couple for nearly a year.
At day break one spring morning, Mary went to draw water from the well before her parents awakened. All at once she heard a voice. “Hail Mary,” it said. “The Lord is with you. Holy is your name.” And the angel stood before her. “Mary, do not be afraid, “he said. “I am the angel Gabriel, God’s messenger. He has sent me to tell you that He wishes you to bear a son.”
“But how can such a thing be possible? I am not yet wed,” said Mary.
“The Holy Spirit will pass through you as a ray of sunlight passes through a drop of water, and so the child will be called the Son of God.” Mary shook her head in wonder.
“Your kinswoman Elizabeth has in her old age conceived a son, and she, like your own mother was once called barren,” the angel continued. “But now, thanks to the Lord, Elizabeth is in her sixth month. Indeed, only your consent is needed for such a miracle to be possible, for nothing is impossible for God.”
As she listened, Mary was filled with courage. She replied, “Then I give my consent.”
Bowing before her, the angel Gabriel Kissed the hem of Mary’s robe and then vanished.
Alone, Mary wondered what kind of destiny she had carved for herself. How was she to explain this to her parents? And to Joseph?
The next morning Anna surprised Mary with news. “I have just received a letter from our cousin Elizabeth. The Lord has blessed her, for at last she has conceived a child. It is truly a miracle!” The following day they left for Elizabeth’s home to help her as she awaited the birth of the baby. Now, as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary at the door, she called out, “Hail Mary. Mother of God!” and at the same moment, the infant Elizabeth carried leapt for joy within her. Rushing to embrace them both, Elizabeth said to Anna, “Of all the women, Mary is the most blessed and blessed is the infant she carries.”
When Mary was alone with her mother, she tried to explain. Anna took her daughter into her arms. “My dearest child, I believe you,” said Anna. “But what of Joseph? Will he trust in you as completely?”
When Joseph was told, he blamed himself, for he felt he had failed to protect her, crying “who is he who has deceived me? Who did this evil thing in my house and defiled her?”. Then Mary wept and said that she was pure. To spare Mary any public shame, it was decided that she was to go into seclusion, and that the engagement would be broken. But that very night an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived her child through the grace of the Holy Spirit. It will be a son, and you must name him Jesus, for he will be the salvation of the world.”
On the way to Bethlehem where they were going to be ‘enrolled’, Mary came down from her donkey, knowing that her time had come. Joseph took her into a cave and while the heavens stood still and the birds of heaven rested, while time itself throughout nature and humanity came to a stop, there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. A great light appeared in the cave as the baby was born. For a moment he was pure light, then as the light faded a child appeared.
Although Mary is not described in any detail she is referred to as an innocent child – her situation is compelling and wondrous. The very delicate treatment of the figure of Mary has contributed to her warm and mysterious presence in later Mariology.
Early manuscripts of the Gospel of James exist in Greek, Syriac, Ethiopic and Georgian. Reaffirming the significance of the role of Mary in the divine play.
The reoccurring themes of purity, chastity, love and compassion dominate the life of Mary, indeed she is the embodiment of these qualities. The qualities of a Mother. But greater than any Mother born of this earth. She is the perfect example of how the feminine power of God manifests itself as a “Mother”, just as Christ is the perfect example of the power of God when embodied as a “son”.
Names were important in the ancient world. Joseph the Carpenter would have been very aware of the character and history of his own name. No doubt, it influenced his identity in some way.
Joseph was a carpenter. Recent studies show that carpenters probably did not have a high rank or an honored place in society. A carpenter was a craftsman who built yokes, plows, threshing boards, benches, beds, boxes, coffins, boats, and houses, and worked on the temple and the synagogues.
Joseph practiced his trade and was known by it. Joseph also taught Jesus carpentry. An early Christian, Justin Martyr, believed that Jesus might have built yokes and plows. The Good News Bible says that Joseph was a man who always did what was right. The Revised Standard says that he was a righteous man. Another translation says that he was a man of character.
When Joseph heard that Mary was expecting a child that wasn’t his, he chose not to hurt her. (He could have had her stoned to death.) He resolved to divorce her quietly. Yet, even as he was thinking of divorce, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and told him the child was of the Holy Spirit. Joseph believed and chose to keep Mary as his wife.
Joseph believed without proof, without seeing, without touching. He paid attention to the voice of God. Later we hear that the child is in danger because of the anger of King Herod. Joseph is again warned in a dream. He rises up in the middle of the night and carries the mother and child to safety in Egypt. Later, when they return, Joseph is concerned over the danger in Judea. He chose to settle in Nazareth. Both Matthew and Luke give the genealogy of Joseph. They trace the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph. Of course, the two genealogies don’t agree with each other and, of course, Joseph is not presented as the biological father of Jesus. However, his ancestry is given anyway.
Perhaps it is because Joseph becomes the legal father of Jesus. Jesus himself seemed satisfied to be known as his son.The glimpses we are given indicate that Joseph was a good father. He named the child. He kept the baby safe in time of danger. He maintained the family home and livelihood. He taught Jesus his profession. When Jesus was thought to be lost, he shared Mary’s frantic worry and desperate searching. Joseph was also an attentive father regarding the religious upbringing of his children. Despite their poverty, the family Jesus made the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. It was the hope of most families to go there at least once in their entire lives. But Joseph and Mary went every year. Joseph was the one who would have made that decision. He must have felt that this sacred observance was of more value to his family than the money saved.
We may also infer from the gospel stories that Joseph made the Sabbath observance and attendance at the synagogue a faithful habit. Jesus had clearly been taught well the law, the customs, and traditions of his people. Joseph was part of this. If we take seriously the incarnation, the fact that Christ assumed human nature and its limitations; if we do this, the importance of the influence, teaching, and example of Joseph is vitally important. It is also true that the other sons of Joseph were good and faithful men. Though Mary and the brothers and sisters of Jesus did not at first seem to understand his ministry, the ones we know about were active in Christian ministry. Paul referred to the “Lord’s brothers,” who travelled in Christian ministry.
The greatest man that ever walked the world was God Himself.
At the time of His birth, darkness turned into light. When he died, daylight turned into night.
May He forever be present in our lives so we can always have light to guide and comfort us.
The holy Ancestor-of-God Joachim had himself reposed at 80 years of age, several years after the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). St Anna, having been left a widow, moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and lived near the Temple. At Jerusalem she bought two pieces of property: the first at the gates of Gethsemane, and the second in the valley of Josaphat. At the second locale, she built a tomb for the members of her family, and where also she herself was buried with Joachim. It was there in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Saviour often prayed with His disciples.
Joseph is said to have died before Jesus started his mission. The virgin Mary died in 48 Ad, she was 59. The most-pure body of the Mother of God was buried in the family tomb. Christians honoured the sepulchre of the Mother of God, and they built a church on this spot. Within the church was preserved the precious funeral cloth, which covered her all-pure and fragrant body.
The holy Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem (420-458) testified before the emperor Marcian (450-457) as to the authenticity of the tradition about the miraculous ascent of the Mother of God to Heaven, and he sent to the empress, St Pulcheria (September 10), the grave wrappings of the Mother of God from Her tomb. St Pulcheria then placed these grave-wrappings within the Blachernae church.
The Holy Mother days.
The Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God is celebrated by the Church on December 9
The Nativity of the blessed Mother of God is celebrated on September 8.
The Church commemorates the Presentation of the young Mary on November 21.
The Assumption of Mary 15 August
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