St Joachim (Youwakim) and St Anna

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Continuing the feasts dedicated to Our Lady in this week of the Annunciation. On 22 November we celebrate the feast of Mary’s parents St Joachim (Youwakim) and Anna. St Joachim and Anna are not mentioned in the New Testament.

Fr Yuhanna Azize has written this lovely reflection on the source where the tradition in relation to Mary’s parents most likely originated.

‘The earliest name of the document was the Genesis (Birth) of Mary, but today it is called the Protevangelium of James. It is one of the most important documents in the history of the early Church, especially the Eastern Church. It is believed to come from somewhere between 100 and 150 AD, but it (or its oldest parts) may be as early as 70 or 80.

Although it is little known, it seems that nothing in the early Church was as important or widespread as this document except the New Testament. From it we know the name of Mary’s parents (Joachim, or Youwakim and Anna), and that Our Lord was born in a cave outside Bethlehem.

It opens with the story of Joachim, and then goes to the birth of Mary, which is presented as a virginal conception. From the text it appears that the author also believed in the Immaculate Conception. From the age of three, we are told, Mary was placed in the Temple, and remained there until the age of 12 (puberty, at which age should would be impure according to Jewish law), weaving the veil of the Temple.

There is a profound typology here, because she continued weaving it although she had to leave the Temple, and not until she had conceived the Lord, did she finish the veil. In other words, Our Lord represented the veil (Hebrews 10:20 says that the Lord’s flesh was the veil – presumably because it hid His divinity.) That is why the weaving of it could not be completed until after the virginal conception had taken place.

Further, the death of the Lord coincides with the rending of the veil of the Temple from top to bottom at the time of His death (Matthew 27:5). Typologically, the veil is the antetype of the type which is the body of the Lord.

That is, the weaving of the cloth of the veil which was begun in the Temple, was completed outside of it, when the Lord was born. It was placed in the Temple, where it hung until He was slain, at which time it was rent. Our Lord, therefore, was the very soul of the Temple, the very life of the religion.

There are many other interesting aspects of this text, but this one alone is sufficient to show that we are dealing with a text of extraordinary depth.’

By Christina Maksisi