An ancient tradition, already known in the 2nd century, gives these names to the parents of the Virgin Mary. The cult of St Anna became popular in the 6th century in the East, and in the 10th century in the West, where she is the patron saint of Brittany; Joachim was added a long time later – too often the fate of fathers. Although the information about Mary’s parents is found in an early apocryphal writing that gives many miraculous and highly-coloured stories about the early life of the Virgin Mary, there is no reason to suppose that such a straightforward fact as her parents’ names should be wrong, since there is nothing to be gained from falsifying it. It does not occur in the Gospels simply because the most reliable evangelists (the only ones whom we have allowed into the Bible) felt they had more important things to talk about. But what, after all, could be more important than the parents who brought up the Virgin Mary to be the woman she was? At the moment of consenting to the Incarnation she took the most important decision ever taken by any human being, and the fact that she took it is, to a great extent, the work of her parents. The Holy Spirit gave her the strength to take the decision; but her parents’ training gave her the wisdom to choose. Those of us who have children must seek to bring them up to the best of our ability, to meet challenges that, like Anna and Joachim, we have no way of even imagining.
Prayer from Morning Prayer:
Lord, God of our fathers,
you bestowed on Saint Joachim and Saint Anne
this singular grace:
that their daughter, Mary,
should become the Mother of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Grant, at their intercession,
the salvation you promised to your people.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.