The names of the parents of Mary are known from the apocryphal “Proto-Gospel of James” (2nd century). The cult to Saint Anne is documented in the East in the 6th century, in the West in the 10th century; that of Saint Joachim in the 14th century. In the Byzantine rite the 25 of July reminds us the dedication in Constantinople of a Basilica in honor of Saint Anne.
In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names Joachim and Anne come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.
The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people.
Joachim and Anne—whether these are their real names or not—represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.
According to tradition, Saint Anne was born in Bethlehem, and married Joachim of Nazareth, both descendants of David. Together with her husband, Anne raised Mary to be a paragon of virtue and entrusted her to the temple as a child. It appears that she died at an advanced age. The same tradition tells of Joachim, a wealthy livestock owner whose marriage to Anne did not produce offspring until late. This was regarded as a lack of heavenly blessing, resulting in Joachim’s sacrifice being refused at the temple. Remembering the son granted to Abraham late in life, Joachim resolved to go into the desert and fast for forty days. An angel appeared and told him of the birth of his daughter, and he went to meet his wife at the “Golden Gate” of Jerusalem.
The Carmelite Order celebrates, with special devotion its Saints, gathering in them the most living and genuine expression of the Charism and the spirituality of the Order throughout the centuries. The feast of the Protectors of the Order is celebrated with special solemnity that is the feast of Saints Joseph, Joachim and Anne.