Thursday of the 16th Week in Course 2018
Ss Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary
Today we commemorate two of the great persons of salvation history, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom tradition calls Joachim and Anne. Scripture implies that Mary had a family, and the Annunciation almost certainly happened in their home. If you take pilgrimage to the Holy Land, you’ll find that the village of Nazareth has blossomed into a city. The basilica of the Annunciation is one of the largest churches in the world, and is the largest Catholic church in the Middle East. When you go down into the lower church, where we celebrated Mass, you see the cave that tradition holds to be the place of the Incarnation. There the angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin and told her that she is full of grace–sinless and especially beloved of God–and would conceive the Son of God. She was given the choice, and said “Fiat,” her answer to the angel’s prophecy. ‘The outcome of Mary’s consent is carved in Latin across the façade over the triple-doorway entrance: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”’
Nobody grows up in a vacuum. Mary grew up in a family. We don’t have any information about it from Scripture–St. Luke, who was probably working from first-hand testimony from the Blessed Virgin, just introduces her as “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” Remarkably, Luke uses the word parthenos twice in the same sentence. That emphasizes the fact that Mary is virginal, and Gabriel’s greeting kaire kecharitomene, “rejoice, thou endowed with grace,” uniquely positions her virginity as both physical and spiritual.
So, what do we know about Joachim and Anne? They were great parents, pious parents who raised Mary in almost ideal, though poor, conditions. They familiarized Mary with the stories of the great men and women of Israelite history. She knew the psalms, and other hymns like that of Hannah from the time of the judges, because her prayer, the Magnificat, is very much a psalm of praise and thanksgiving like those she already knew. Mary understood that her election as the mother of the Messiah meant that she would be the Queen Mother of Israel. Did she understand that her life would be full of suffering, as well? Her daily life was probably punctuated with reminders that Israel was a nation under occupation, with Roman soldiers and auxiliaries patrolling the streets and Roman tax farmers stealing money from everyone. So she knew that her son, the Messiah, would be opposed. Her parents at some point knew that she was pregnant, and knew the circumstances. What was their attitude toward that? It had to be positive, because of the reverence the Church paid to their memory.
If Mary’s response to the angel was an enthusiastic “yes,” then we can look to her parents for their own constant response to God’s commands, their answer of “yes” to His will. She had to learn that habit in her family. We can also look downstream to Mary’s son, Our Lord Jesus. What is the second request in His signature prayer? “Thy will be done.” The human nature of Jesus learned that habit, a virtue that strengthened Him when Satan tempted him in the desert and in the garden, from Mary. Mary learned it from her parents.
Today let’s pray for parents and grandparents. They are in a difficult age. They have to make hard decisions about how to raise children of virtue. So they need to be targets of our prayer. Dear Father, please help parents and grandparents, especially those in our parish, in their decision making, in their support for their children, and in their own spiritual life. Bless them, we pray, with your sanctifying and actual grace, so that a new generation may be a generation of faith, hope and charity.