July 26: Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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About this commemoration

Joachim and Anne

The Gospels tell us little about the home of our Lord’s mother. She
is thought to have been of Davidic descent and to have been brought
up in a devout Jewish family that cherished the hope of Israel for the
coming kingdom of God, in remembrance of the promise to Abraham
and the forefathers.

In the second century, a devout Christian sought to supply a fuller
account of Mary’s birth and family, to satisfy the interest and curiosity
of believers. An apocryphal gospel, known as the Protevangelium of
James or The Nativity of Mary, appeared. It included legendary stories
of Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne. These stories were built out of
Old Testament narratives of the births of Isaac and of Samuel (whose
mother’s name, Hannah, is the original form of Anne), and from
traditions of the birth of John the Baptist. In these stories, Joachim
and Anne—the childless, elderly couple who grieved that they would
have no posterity—were rewarded with the birth of a girl whom they
dedicated in infancy to the service of God under the tutelage of the
temple priests.

In 550 the Emperor Justinian I erected in Constantinople the first
church to Saint Anne. The Eastern Churches observe her festival on
July 25. Not until the twelfth century did her feast become known in
the West. Pope Urban VI fixed her day, in 1378, to follow the feast of
Saint James. Joachim has had several dates assigned to his memory;
but the new Roman Calendar of 1969 joins his festival to that of Anne
on this day.


I Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in
thanksgiving this day the parents of the Blessed Virgin
Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the
heavenly family of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who
with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

II Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in
thanksgiving this day the parents of the Blessed Virgin
Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the
heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who
with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.


Genesis 17:1–8
1 Thessalonians 1:1–5
Luke 1:26–33

Psalm 132:11–19

Preface of the Incarnation

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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15 thoughts on “July 26: Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  1. I think the addition of the names is useful. I think we sahould celebrate this feast. St. Anne is siignificant (even though the colonial churches dedicated to here were because of Queen Anne whose patroness she was. Joachim even has a diocese named for him . I share Michael Hartney’s curiosity as to why 1 Thess1;1-5, but does any one have better ideea? I don’t.

  2. Note to the SCLM: Perhaps it would be helpful with each commemoration to highlight in some way the parts of HWHM that have been enacted for Trial Use by GC 09. The added commemorations themselves are bracketed [ ], but other changes such as: a new or different Psalm, a new or different reading, a change in the wording of a collect to accommodate a new commemoration, and an addition to the bio to accommodate a new commemoration require comparison with LFF 06. As I understand this Trial Use period we are not commenting on existing commemorations, bios, and readings from LFF 06, just those proposed by GC 09 to be included in HWHM. Am I right?

    • Hi Michael,

      Ruth Meyers, SCLM chair, wrote a comment clarifying what is up for trial use, etc. on the post from July 21, I believe. You might take a look at that to clear up any questions. Beyond that, I’ll leave it to Ruth or another SCLM member to comment further.

      Thanks for your suggestions for more ways that this blog could be helpful. The SCLM is definitely inviting comment and feedback about anything that is posted here, so feel free to comment whether or not every part of every commemoration is up for trial use.

      Blessings, Beau

  3. I agree with the comments made (July 21) by esteemed colleagues Ruth Myers and Gregory Howe. (However, the subsequent clarifications by others that day significantly confused the clarifications made by them.) I will ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ their advise. 🙂

  4. The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been on the calendar of saints since the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It seems as though, all I am doing in complaining about the persons commemorated, and for that forgive me please. But I do object to their being on the Episcopal calendar, not because they are not traditionally recognized, but because there is no Biblical authority for them. In fact, the ‘bio” for Joachim and Anne above actually is an excellent argument for why they should not be on the calendar, or at the very least, their specific names do not belong on the calendar. The earliest source of information about Joachim and Anne is the Protevangelium of James which was written about 150-200. It was clearly written by a pious person who wanted to “fill in the gaps.” I realize that the Roman Catholic Church uses the Protevangelium of James as a part of its platform for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which I thoroughly reject as a Protestant. The inclusion of the names Joachim and Anne fails on the criteria for “historicity.” The Protevangelium was rejected by the early Church. I see no reason to perpetuate myth as fact by adding the names Joachim and Anne. Culturally it is important to know the names. For example, one cannot get through an art history course without knowing the story of Joachim and Anne. And certainly the Protevangelium has colored the way we present Joseph in Christmas pagents. At some point, it is important to keep story separate from articles of faith. There was wisdom in limiting the lists to saints to Apostles, Evangelists, and early Church founders as was done in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

    Suzanne Sauter

  5. Just an afterthought. Instead of 1 Thessalonians 1:1–5, would 1John 5:1-5 be any better?

    Suzanne Sauter

  6. July 26: Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    The two overarching issues of the whole blog come to mind: How this witnesses to the Gospel, and how does it inspire us in Christian life today? It’s not on a par with other commemorations because whoever the parents of Jesus’ mother were, they certainly weren’t witnesses to the Gospel or the Christian Life, being pre-Christian. Being ecumenical doesn’t require us to be anachronistic. We don’t even know if there was a “Joachim and Anne”; what we know is that when stories were fabricated, whole cloth, about parents for Mary, the story-teller gave these characters the story-names of Joachim and Anne. Beyond that it is not history, it’s not even legend (understood as exaggerated accounts of historic figures) – it’s extrapolation and projection to satisfy devotional expectations. Mary must have had parents: of that we can be certain. We could as well have a feast for St Joseph’s parents, Moe and Harriet. (Joseph, also, had parents.)

    Therefore, remembering that our object is not to question or remove already accepted feasts, I would prefer the title of the day remain as in my old copy of LFF, simply, “Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (without the addition of “Joachim and Anne.”)

    The epistle is perfect for this commemoration: it has nothing to do with Anne or Joachim, is generic but Christian, and nobody could possibly object to reading it on July 26.

    Psalm 132:11-19 maintains the selection from LFF, but somewhere along the way LFF’s optional use of Ps 85:8-13 has been omitted, an oracle of approaching deliverance and shalom: “Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven…. Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.” I’m sorry to see this Christological “type” lost as an option here. At least its focus was on Christ, the little detail that makes Joachim and Anne worth inventing.

  7. I don’t think St. Anne’s feast needs any justification other than the number of American churches that bear her name, and the antiquity of her feast in both the Greek and Latin communions. Churches were named in her honor as far back as 550 in the East, and her feast was being celebrated at Rome as early as the 8th century.
    You might even shoe horn in a nod to the saint’s namesake, Queen Anne (1665-1714, “the Church of England’s Glory” and the first monarch of Great Britain). She was a great supporter of church planting, especially in the American colonies. She often provided such plants with a gift of communion silver. I’ve always suspected that it was her generosity (past or, more often, prospective), rather than any special Anglican-American veneration for Jesus’ maternal grandmother, that led so many colonial parishes to adopt the name “St. Anne’s.”
    But, bottom line, I’ll still stand with Tertullian on leaving St. Anne in the calendar: “If you look in the Scriptures for a formal law governing these and similar practices, you will find none. It is tradition that justifies them, custom that confirms them, and faith that observes them.”

  8. What Steve Lusk said, and I’d also mention the Order of St. Anne, an order of women religious in the Episcopal Church, which just celebrated its centennial, having been founded in 1910 by a priest from the Society of St. John the Evangelist. The Chicago OSA nuns celebrated the centennial on Sunday at a Solemn High Mass at Church of the Ascension with a turnout of 145 for the Mass and reception. I’m thinking they would be in favor of keeping St. Anne in the kalendar. 🙂

  9. The General Convention did set out nine criteria to be used in evaluating the proposed additions to the liturgical calendar: Historicity, Christian Discipleship, Significance, Memorability, Range of Inclusion, Local Observance, Perspective, Levels of Commemoration and Combined Commemorations. I am not sure how these criteria relate to the resolutions of the 1994 General Convention which included the following for evaluation of additions to the calendar: Heroic Faith, Love, Goodness of Life, Joyousness, Service to others for Christ’s sake, Devotion, Recognition by the faithful, and Historical Perspective. I will assume that all are to be taken into consideration when it comes to assessing the additions to Holy Men, Holy Women. It is never wise to turn these points into a check-list to add up how many points each person has for or against inclusion. But it should give us all pause to think carefully, even when there is a long tradition, as is the case with St. Anne. Long tradition does not trump other considerations. To carry the argument to aburdity, there was a long tradition that the earth was the center of the universe. But that does not make it correct or even a principle by which one would want to conduct one’s life.

    Suzanne Sauter

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