Saints Joachim and Ann – John Damascene

The parents of the Virgin Mary, the grandparents of Jesus, are known by the names of Joachim and Ann from a tradition dating back to the Second Century as noted in the document known as the Protoevangelion of St. James.  Their feast in July 26.  Here St. John Damascene extolls them.

Ann was to be the mother of the Virgin Mother of God, and hence nature did not dare to anticipate the flowering of grace. Thus nature remained sterile, until grace produced its fruit. For she who was to be born had to be a first born daughter, since she would be the mother of the first-born of all creation, in whom all things are held together.

Joachim and Ann, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him.

And so rejoice, Ann, that you were sterile and have not borne children; break forth into shouts, you who have not given birth. Rejoice, Joachim, because from your daughter a child is born for us, a son is given us, whose name is Messenger of great counsel and universal salvation, mighty God. For this child is God.

Joachim and Ann, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have born, as the Lord says: By their fruits you will know them. The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body.

Joachim and Ann, how chaste a couple! While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity. Rejoice in God, all the earth. Sing, exult and sing hymns. Raise your voice, raise it and not be afraid.

This passage on Sts. Joachim and Ann is taken from a sermon by St. John Damascene, bishop (Oratio 6, in Nativitatem B. Mariae V., PG 96:663. 667670 ) delivered ca. AD 740 and is used in the Roman Office readings for the Feast of St. Joachim and St. Ann on July 26.

St. John Damascene

The life of St. John Damascene (also known as Saint John of Damascus) began around 675 AD, already a generation after the area had been conquered by Muslim armies.  Saint John Damascene was born into a rich family and spent the early years of his adult life serving as the official representative of the Christian community to the Muslim Caliph.  He later abandoned this political task to join the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem where he became a priest and ultimately bishop. 

St. John Damascene is known as one of the last of the Fathers of the Church.  He was a strong defender of the use of images (icons) in Christian worship against the iconoclasts and wrote a book “On the Orthodox Faith” that sums up the doctrinal heritage of the earlier Greek Fathers.  In this great synthesis we find a systematic treatment of the central Christian doctrines, especially the Trinity, Creation, and the Incarnation.  St. John Damascenes treatment of the Sacraments is also extensive, and his emphasis on the real bodily presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is very strong.  Notable too in his teaching is a fully developed doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary including her perpetual virginity, her freedom from sin throughout the whole of her life, and her bodily assumption into heaven. 

St. John Damascene’s influence on later theology was considerable indeed.  In the Latin Middle Ages, he was known to Peter Lombard and St. Thomas Aquinas.  All throughout the Middle Ages his works were known and widely used by Eastern Christian Theologians, especially the Slavs.  He died around the year 749 AD and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1890. (bio by Dr. Italy)