At a time much like our own, when the ancient serpent had infected the whole earth with its poisonous breath and apparently enjoyed peaceful control over mortals who had become blind to the light of reason; when the pride of men reigned supreme and fools had become innumerable; when His justice had such an excellent cause for annihilating all of creation and reducing it to its original nothingness; God instead directed His attention to the attribute of His mercy, sending into the world two most bright luminaries to announce the approaching dawn of the Sun of Justice, Christ our Salvation. These were St. Joachim and St. Anne, prepared and created by especial decree according to His own heart.
St. Joachim had his home, his family, and relations in Nazareth of Galilee. Always a just and holy man and illuminated by especial grace and light from on high, had a knowledge of many mysteries of the holy Scriptures and of the olden Prophets. In continual and fervent prayer he asked of God the fulfillment of His promises, and his faith and charity penetrated the heavens. He was a man most humble and pure, leading a most holy and sincere life, yet he was most grave and earnest, and incomparably modest and honest.
His prayers were heard and to be fulfilled, it being divinely disposed that Joachim and Anne would unite in marriage and become the parents of her, who was to be the Mother of the incarnate God.
To St. Joachim the archangel Gabriel said as follows: “Joachim, be thou blessed by the right hand of the Most High! Persevere in thy desires and live according to rectitude and perfection. It is the will of the Almighty, that thou receive St. Anne as thy spouse, for her the Lord has visited with his blessing. Take care of her and esteem her as a pledge of the most High and give thanks to His Majesty, because He has given her into thy charge.” In consequence of this divine message St. Joachim immediately asked for the hand of the most chaste St. Anne and, in joint obedience to the divine ordainment, they espoused each other.
The two holy spouses lived in Nazareth, continuing to walk in the justification of the Lord. In rectitude and sincerity they practiced all virtue in their works, making themselves very acceptable and pleasing to the Most High and avoiding all blemish in all their doings. The rents and incomes of their estate they divided each year into three parts. The first one they offered to the temple of Jerusalem for the worship of the Lord; the second they distributed to the poor, and the third they retained for the decent sustenance of themselves and family. God augmented their temporal goods on account of their generosity and charity.
They lived with each other in undisturbed peace and union of heart, without quarrel or shadow of a grudge. They spent the first twenty years of their married life without issue in a time when this was held to be the greatest misfortune and disgrace. On this account they had to bear much reproach and insult from their neighbors and acquaintances, for all those that were childless were considered as excluded from the benefits of God. But the Most High wished to afflict them and dispose them for the grace which awaited them, in order that in patience and submission they might tearfully sow the glorious Fruit which they were afterwards to bring forth. They continued in most fervent prayers from the bottom of their hearts, vowing that if He should give them a child, they would consecrate it to his service in the temple of Jerusalem.
One year when St. Joachim went to the temple to pray, the high priest, Isachar, harshly reprehended the old and venerable St. Joachim for presuming to come with the other people to make his offerings in spite of his being childless. Among other things he said, “Why dost thou, Joachim, come with thy offerings and sacrifices, which are not pleasing in the eyes of God, since thou art a useless man? Leave this company and depart; do not annoy God with thy offerings and sacrifices, which are not acceptable to Him.”
The holy man, full of shame and confusion, in humble love thus addressed the Lord: “Most high Lord and God, at thy command and desire I came to the temple; he that takes thy place despises me; my sins merit this disgrace; but since I accept it according to thy will, do not cast away the creature of thy hands.” St. Joachim hastened away from the temple full of sorrow, though peaceful and contented, to a farm or storehouse, which he possessed, and there in solitude he called upon the Lord for some days, praying as follows:
“Most high and eternal God, on whom depends the whole existence and the reparation of the human race, prostrate in thy living presence, I supplicate thy infinite goodness to look upon the affliction of my soul and to hear my prayers and those of thy servant Anne. To thine eyes are manifest all our desires and if I am not worthy to be heard, do not despise my humble spouse. Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our first forefathers, do not hide thy kindness from us, nor permit, since Thou art a Father, that I be numbered among the reprobate and the outcasts in my offerings, because Thou givest me no issue. Remember, O Lord, the sacrifices and oblations of thy servants and prophets, my ancestors, and look upon their works, which were pleasing to thy divine eyes. Since Thou commandest me, my Lord, to pray to Thee in confidence, grant me, according to the greatness of thy mercy and power, that which at thy wish I pray for. In beseeching Thee I fulfill thy will and render the obedience, in which Thou hast promised to grant my petition. If my sins hinder the exercise of thy mercies, take away what displeases and hinders Thee. Thou art mighty, Lord God of Israel, and all that Thou wishest, Thou canst accomplish without hindrance. Let my prayer reach thy ears, and if I am poor and insignificant, Thou art infinite and always ready to exercise mercy with the downcast. Whither shall I flee from Thee, who art the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Thou hast filled thy sons and servants with benedictions in their generations and Thou hast instructed me to expect and desire from thy bounty what Thou hast wrought in my bretheren. If it is Thy pleasure to yield to my petition, and grant me issue I will offer it and consecrate it to thy holy temple in perpetual service. I have riveted my eyes and my will on thy holy Will and have always desired to keep them free from the vanishing things of this world. Fulfill in regard to me, what is according to thy pleasure, and rejoice our spirit with the accomplishment of our hopes. Look down from thy throne upon this vile dust, and raise it up, in order that it may magnify Thee and adore Thee, and let in all things be fulfilled thy will, and not mine.”
The archangel Gabriel appeared to holy St. Joachim while he was praying, saying, “Just and upright man, the Almighty from his sovereign throne has taken notice of thy desires and has heard thy sighs and prayers, and has made thee fortunate on earth. Thy spouse Anne shall conceive and bear a daughter, who shall be blessed among women. The nations shall know her as the Blessed. He who is the eternal God, Uncreated, and the Creator of all, most upright in His judgments, powerful and strong, sends me to thee, because thy works and alms have been acceptable. Love has softened the heart of the Almighty, and has hastened his mercies, and in his liberality He wishes to enrich thy house and thy family with a daughter, whom Anne shall conceive; the Lord himself has chosen for her the name of Mary. From her childhood let her be consecrated to the temple, and in it to God, as thou hast promised. She shall be elect, exalted, powerful and full of the Holy Ghost; on account of the sterility of Anne her conception shall be miraculous; she shall be a daughter wonderful in all her doings and in all her life. Praise the Lord, Joachim, for this benefit and magnify Him, for in no other nation has He wrought the like. Thou shalt go to give thanks in the temple of Jerusalem and in testimony of the truth of this joyful message, thou shalt meet, in the Golden Gate, thy sister Anne, who is coming to the temple for the same purpose. Remember that marvelous is this message, for the Conception of this child shall rejoice heaven and earth.”
The age of St. Anne, when she married St. Joachim, was twenty-four, and that of St. Joachim, forty-six. Twenty years they lived in married life without issue, and thus St. Anne, at the same time of the conception of her daughter, was forty-four years old, and St. Joachim sixty-six.
When Mary was three years old, St. Joachim and St. Anne set out from Nazareth, accompanied by a few of their kindred and bringing with them the true living Ark of the covenant, the most holy Mary, borne on the arms of her mother in order to be deposited in the holy temple of Jerusalem. This humble procession was scarcely noticed by earthy creatures, but it was invisibly accompanied by the angelic spirits, who, in order to celebrate this event, had hastened from heaven to act as her bodyguard, and were singing in heavenly strains the glory and praise of the Most High. Thus they pursued their journey from Nazareth to the holy city of Jerusalem, and also the parents of the holy child Mary felt in their hearts great joy and consolation of spirit.
When they reached the temple, Mary turned and knelt down before St. Joachim and St. Anne, asked their blessing and kissed their hands, recommending herself to their prayers before God. The holy parents in tenderest tears gave her their blessing, whereupon she ascended the fifteen steps into the temple without any assistance.
Sorrowfully her parents retraced their journey to Nazareth, now poor as deprived of the rich treasure of their house. But the Most High consoled and comforted them in their affliction.
The day came when God revealed to Mary that her father Joachim would pass from this mortal life to the eternal and immortal life. He said to her, “His death will happen shortly and He will pass in peace and shall be placed among the saints in limbo, to await the Redemption of the human race.”
The child Mary offered ardent prayer for her father St. Joachim, beseeching the Lord to give him grace to depend upon Him as his powerful and true God in his transit through a blessed death; and asked Him to defend Joachim against the demon especially in that hour, preserve him for and constitute him among the number of the elect, since during his life He had confessed and magnified his admirable and holy name.
The Lord accepted this petition and consoled the heavenly child by assuring her that He would assist her father as a most merciful and kind Rewarder of those that love and serve Him, and that He would place him among the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Mary also sent her angels to console St. Joachim, who addressed him as follows:
“Man of God, may the Most High and powerful Lord be thy eternal salvation and may He send thee from His holy place the necessary and opportune help for thy soul. Mary thy daughter has sent us in order to assist thee in this hour, in which thou must pay the debt of mortality to thy Creator. She is a most faithful and powerful intercessor before the Almighty, in whose name and peace thou wilt now pass consoled and joyous from this world because He has made thee the father of such a blessed daughter. Although his incomprehensible Majesty, on account of His hidden decrees, has not as yet revealed the sacraments and dignity in which He shall invest thy daughter, He wishes thee to know it now in order that thou mayest magnify and praise Him, and in order that the pain and sorrow of natural death may be relieved by the joy of thy spirit at this news. Mary, thy daughter, is chosen and ordained by the Almighty as the One, in whom the divine Word shall vest Himself with human flesh and form. She is to be the happy mother of the Messia and the Blessed among women, the most exalted among all creatures, and only inferior to God Himself. Thy most fortunate daughter is to restore what the human race lost by the first sin, and she is the high mountain on which is to be established and constructed the new law of grace. Since thou leavest to the world a daughter, through whom God will restore it and prepare a full remedy, do thou part from it in the joy of thy soul, and may the Lord bless thee from Sion and constitute thee in the inheritance of the saints and bring thee to the vision and enjoyment of the blessed Jerusalem.”
During these words of the holy angels to St. Joachim, his spouse, holy St. Anne, stood at the head of his bed and by divine disposition she heard and understood what they said. In the same moment the holy patriarch lost the use of speech and, treading into the path common to all flesh, he commenced his agony in a marvelous struggle between his joy at his message and the pain of death. In this conflict of the interior powers of his soul he made many fervent acts of divine love, of faith, of admiration, of praise, of thanksgiving, of humility and heroic acts of many other virtues. Thus absorbed in the knowledge of so divine a mystery, he arrived at the term of his natural life and died the precious death of the saints. His holy soul was carried by the angels to the limbo of the Patriarchs and just souls; and, for a new consolation and light in the protracted night in which they lived, the Most High sent the soul of St. Joachim as the last messenger and legate of the Lord to announce to the whole congregation of the just: that the dawn of the eternal day was at hand; that the morning light was breaking upon the world in most holy Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anne; that from her was to be brought forth the Sun of the Divinity, Christ, the Redeemer of all the human race. This great news the holy fathers and the just in limbo heard and received with jubilee and in their exultation they sang many hymns of thanksgiving to the Most High.
St. Joachim's feast day is August 16th.
*The information related above is from the book “Mystical City of God,” written by Venerable Mary of Agreda and carrying the imprimatur of a Catholic Archbishop. They are revelations given to the incorrupt saint by the Mother of God, and written under the command of her superiors. There can be no doubt that God can and does manifest to chosen souls hidden things in addition to what He teaches through the public ministry of His Church.
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