Saints Joachim and Anna and Other Extra-Biblical Holidays

Saints Joachim and Anna are an interesting pair.  In terms of their chronology, they fall into that time period falsely known as the silent years, the four hundred or so years between the conclusion of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament.  In spite of that, they never actually appear in any canonical gospel or epistle.  Truth be told, they do not actually appear in the Bible anywhere.  We only know of Saints Joachim and Anna from a late second century work known as the Proto-Evangelion Jacobi, or the Infancy Gospel of James.

The work says, probably falsely, that it is the writing of St. James the Just, the brother of Jesus Christ, who wrote the book to inform the Church the details from the life of Christ.  Although it is not canonical, we get a great deal of tradition from the book.  The Infancy Gospel of James may be one of the first sources which write about the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The apocryphal gospel mentions that St. James was a son of St. Joseph, himself a widower, who married the Blessed Virgin Mary later in his life and, therefore, St. James was a would have been regarded as a half-brother to Jesus.  The work discusses the birth and early life of the Blessed Virgin Mary including the names of her parents, Joachim and Anna.

“So what,” I hear some readers asking.  Who cares about some tradition which is patently non-biblical?  Well, first off, those traditions are not exactly “non-biblical;” they are “extra-biblical.”  What is the difference?  Something that goes against what is stated in the Bible is non-Biblical.  The English heretic Pelagius held the non-biblical position that man could attain salvation by his own labor.  That goes against what is said in the New Testament.  It basically slaps St. Paul and the entire Epistle to the Galatians in the face.  Something which is extra-biblical is not expressly stated in the Bible, but neither does it expressly contradict what is said in the Bible either.

The ideas that St. Joseph was an older man and a widower, that St. James the Just was his son from a previous marriage, and that the Blessed Virgin Mary worked in the Temple as a youth sewing the veil are never expressly stated anywhere in the Bible.  Then again, the Bible never expressly contradicts those ideas either.  Some will try to make assertions about the meaning of the word “brother” as it refers to St. James, but the fact is that the usage of the word is so diverse that it barely holds any meaning at all.  I have several good friends whom I refer to as brothers.  I bumped into a former parishioner in a Starbucks while sitting down to compose this and referred to him as “brother.”  Why would we think that a bunch of rabble would use a precise genetic term while hurling their insults at the Lord?

Whether they are a part of Holy Scripture or not, the Blessed Virgin Mary had parents.  Based on her holy and righteous lifestyle, we can assume that her parents were probably among the top ten parents in the Bible.  They did a fantastic job raising her, right?  When confronted by an Angel of the Lord, she did not cower in fear or run away.  She responded by following the Angel’s words and submitting herself to the will of the Lord.  A great deal of good seed has to be sown into a young child in order to produce good fruit like that.  We can assume that Saints Joachim and Anna (or whatever their “real” namesl might have been) played a rather large part in that.

Since 1978, the first Sunday after Labor Day has been nationally recognized as Grandparents’ Day.  I always blamed Hallmark; it turns out it was the United States Senate.  Aside from being the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anna were also Our Lord’s grandparents.  My kids spend a great deal of time with their grandparents.  Aside from my wife and I, our parents are probably one of the strongest and best influences on our kids.  We can assume that, Jesus had some really great grandparents too.  Maybe the Church should pick this day out of the year and claim it as the Church’s Grandparent’s Day.  It may very well be extra-biblical, but it sure seems like a good idea and it is certainly not non-biblical.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

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