The Old Testament ends with the Book of Malachi. It ends with the prophecies about Jesus the sun of righteousness (Mal 4:2) and John the Baptist who, with the spirit of prophet Elijah, preparing the way of the Lord (Mal 4:5). As for prophecies, the next five centuries was a long interregnum. The New Testament begins with the birth of John the Baptist.

But we know that something important happened by the end of this interval. It was the immaculate birth of our Holy Mother. We have read, learnt, and contemplated it in length. Yet it still remains a mystery for us mortals how Mary was created immaculate and how she lived without the stain of sin.

The Scripture does not give us any indications about Mary’s parents. But we know through traditional teachings, revelations, and visions that they were Joachim and Anne. No doubt, they were saintly people so as to give birth to an exalted daughter like Mary. Maria Valtorta’s book ‘The Poem of Man-God’ describes the life of Joachim and Anne in detail.

Tradition and other sources say that they were old people. In the biblical context it is no strange thing for couples to be blessed with children in their twilight years. Abraham and Sarah were pretty old when Issac, who was the sole claimant to the covenant, was born to them. When Hannah and Elkanah were blessed with a son whom they named Samuel, they too were old. As for Elizabeth, the  gospel says that ‘she was not able to conceive and they were both very old (Lk 1:7). But John the Baptist was sent to them as a gift from heaven.

Anne was an ordinary homemaker, and Joachim an ordinary farmer. But they were living so close to God in an extraordinary way. When they were childless, and their days should have passed in desperation, they instead surrendered themselves before the Almighty God. Whenever Anne became gloomy, Joachim would tell her; “We should always live in hope. With God everything is possible. Miracles can happen in our life too, especially when we love God and each other.”

Once they went to the temple for a special prayer session that lasted for days. The subject of their prayer was the same old petition; they wanted a child from God. At the time of submitting their petition before God, they made a rather unusual promise, that they will dedicate the child to God!

On the penultimate day of their prayer session, Anne said to Joachim; “Yesterday I had a dream. I will come to the holy city twice in the coming year. Of them one will be for dedicating our child in the temple.”  Joachim asks in reply; “Didn’t you see anything else? Didn’t the Lord whisper anything more in your heart?” They were waiting for a child, but their hearts were tuned to what the Lord would whisper!

From her childhood, Anne’s desire was to get her life attached to a just man, whom she found in Joachim. As for Joachim, he was looking for a girl filled with grace and wisdom. Truly, their marriage was fixed and consecrated in heaven. Maria Valtorta ends the description of her vision with a message to us all. ‘Holy marriages are protected by angels and holy children are born there.’

When Anne was sure about the movement of a child in her womb, she told Joachim. Like any other parents they too started looking  for a good name for the new little guest coming to them. There was perfect agreement between them to give the name Samuel, if it was a boy. After all, ‘she had asked for him from the Lord’ (1 Sam 1:20). If their child is going to be a girl, they fixed the name Mary.

By the time Anne starts feeling the labor pain, she says to Joachim that in spite of the pain, she also felt a deep peace in her heart. A peace similar to what Mary would experience years later in a silent and holy night in Bethlehem. Little Mary was born into an evening marked by a sudden downpour accompanied by heavy winds and lightning, that came at the end of an extremely hot and sunny day.

When the time of dedication approached, Elizabeth asked Mary; “How is it possible for you to let your daughter go from your heart on that day?” Anne’s reply is something that we should always keep in our mind whenever we think of our children. “She was not with me in the past. It is God who gave her to me. So I will dedicate her to God with all my heart.”

This is the story of Mary’s parents. A couple who patiently waited for God’s intervention in their life. Two souls who transformed their barren years into a celebration of hope. Two persons who decided in advance to dedicate their child to God and fulfilled that commitment in time without a second thought. It is because of these two devout persons that we got Mary as our mother. And the birth of Mary was just one step before the final events leading to our salvation.

Mary of Agreda writes in her famous book ‘Mystical City of God’ that the Heavenly Father selected the most suitable persons as parents for Mary. She opines that had there been any other persons more suitable to be Mary’s parents, God would have definitely selected them.

Joachim and Anne were so close to God. Even today they remain a true model for all parents to emulate. ‘Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him (Ps. 127:3). Let us contemplate on these words of the Psalmist and praise the Lord for our children. Let us confess that our children are not ours, but heaven’s and rededicate them for God’s work.



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