Question: July 26 is the feast of Joachim and Anna. Who are they and what do we know about them?
Answer: Joachim and Anna are the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus, yet there is absolutely no biblical reference to them whatsoever. So where do we get their names, and what is their story?
Their names are found in an apocryphal (hidden) gospel known as “The Infancy Gospel of James.” Apocryphal, or hidden gospels, consist of accounts of Jesus’ life that were ultimately not accepted as inspired works, and thus were not included in the Bible. However, they sometimes captured the Christian imagination, spilling into the devotional dimension of the community.
James’ infancy gospel begins with the parents of Mary and their desire for a child. In their prayer and petitions to God, they are heard and given the blessings of a child, whom they named Mary. While we have no idea who Mary’s parents really were, the fact that we celebrate the feast of Joachim and Anna indicates that the bond of family love is important in the Christian life.
Long before Grandparents’ Day was established, the church had a feast that honored the presumed grandparents of Jesus. While their names are part of non-inspired apocryphal legends, the fact of the Savior’s human ancestry is not. Christ, the incarnate Word, dwelt among us in the flesh in a human family. In honoring the grandparents of Jesus we really proclaim our faith in the Incarnation–God becoming human!