St Joachim (Yuyakkim) and St Anna (Hannah) – Sept 9
The liturgical calendar of the Indian Orthodox Church commemorates the parents of St Mary – the Theotokos, St Joachim (Yuyakkim) and St Anna (Hannah) on 9th September. Ecclesiastic tradition based on the teachings of the Apostles reports that the parents of the Virgin Mary are Joachim and Hanna.
Righteous St. Joachim, son of Barpathir, was a descendant in the lineage of King David, to whom God, had revealed that from the descendants of his line would be born the Saviour of the world. Righteous St. Hannah was the daughter of Matthan, the priest and through her father she was of the tribe of Levi, and through her mother – of the tribe of Judah. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Zoia (Sovia), and Anna. Mary was married in Bethlehem and bore Salome, the midwife; Zoia (Sovia), was also married in Bethlehem, and bore Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner; and Anna was married in Nazareth to Joachim, and in old age gave birth to the Theotokos. The spouses lived at Nazareth in Galilee. St. Mary’s parents, Joachim and Hannah belonged to the royal race of David.
Joachim and Hanna lived in a village near Nazareth in Galilee, and they were well to do. They were a rich as well as a pious and God-fearing couple. God multiplied his flocks, so the couple was more than well provided for. It is said that the couple used to donate one third of their income to the temple and pilgrims and one third to the poor and use only the rest for their livelihood. Joachim had done this since he was 15 years old. They were married for over 50 years; they did not have any children. They were barren and righteous before God, abiding by God’s laws. The Jews, however, considered bareness, as a curse inflicted by God and was considered a disgrace. Those had children, in his family lineage jostled Joachim, thrusting him back as unworthy. Joachim consulted the genealogical records and discovered every righteous man in the nation had been blessed with children, except him. They suffered much reproach, scorn, derision, and humiliation before people.They never grumbled, but fervently prayed to God, humbly trusting in Him. 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
They were more pleasing to God by their pure lives, than anyone else on earth, that God considered them worthy enough to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin, in His plan for our salvation. The prayer of the saintly couple was heard. An Angel announced, to both, that there would be born of them a daughter, who would bless all the race of mankind. Joachim and Hanna kept praying and beseeching God to remove this reproach from their house. They became so old without having their request answered.
It is reported that Joachim once came to the Lord’s temple to present an offering, but the priest Issachar (Rueben) refused the offering because it came from a barren person, as their childlessness was interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure. So, Joachim returned home grieved, disheartened, and humiliated. This pained the old man more than he could bear and he, regarding himself the most sinful of people, decided not to return home, but to settle in solitude in a desolate place. When Saint Anna learned of the humiliation of her husband had endured, she sorrowfully entreated God with prayer and fasting to grant her a child. In his desolate solitude the righteous Joachim also asked God for this.
The prayer of the saintly couple was heard. He sobbed, bitterly with his wife Hannah before God that God. An Angel said: “Hannah, the Lord has looked upon thy tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world” An angel told Joachim too, that a daughter would be born to them, who would be blessed above all other women. He also told them that she would remain a virgin, would be dedicated to the Lord and live in the Temple, and would give birth to the Savior. Obeying the instructions of the heavenly messenger, Saints Joachim and Hannah met at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Then, as God promised, God answered their request a daughter was born to them, in due course and they named her Mary. There was ancient belief that a child born of an elderly mother who had given up hope of having offspring was destined for great things. Parallels occur in the Old Testament in the case of Hannah, mother of Samuel and Sarah, mother of Isaac.
Another daughter was born to Joachim and Hannah, and she was also named Mary. Some traditions hold this Mary gave birth to Salome, who was married to Zebedee, and became the parents of the Apostles John and James (sons of Zebedee), Simon, Jude, and James the Less (son of Alphaeus) and also of James, “the Lord’s brother.”
St. Joachim died a few years later after the Entry of Virgin Mary, his Blessed Daughter into the Temple of, at about age 80. Saint Hannah died at age 70, two years after him, spending the time in the Temple alongside her daughter. Both were entombed in Jerusalem. Queen Helen constructed a Church where their house had been.
By their righteous lives Joachim and Anna pleased God so much that He considered them worthy enough to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin, the fore-ordained Mother of the Lord. From only this it is clear that their life was holy, God-pleasing, and pure, for from them was born the Daughter Holy saints, pleasing to God more than all the others, and more honorable than the Cherubim. The feast of St. Joachim and St. Hannah is celebrated on 9 September by the Orthodox Syrian Church.