On the Presentation of Mary — Who Were Sts. Joachim and Anne?

Catholics observe the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Nov. 21.

Titian (1490-1576), “The Presentation of Mary in the Temple”
Titian (1490-1576), “The Presentation of Mary in the Temple” (photo: Public Domain)

Where in the Bible do we learn that the Virgin Mary’s parents were named Anne and Joachim?

Can’t figure out what chapter and verse it is? That’s because it’s not really in the Bible. Saint Anna (Anne) and Saint Joachim (sometimes spelled “Ioacim”) show up in a separate book called the Protoevangelium of James or, more simply, the Gospel of James.

Not one of the canonical gospels, the Gospel of James is considered apocryphal — not part of the divine revelation, although elements may, in fact, be historical. It was probably written about A.D. 145 and takes a look back into Mary’s and Jesus’ lives, revealing details not found in Scripture. Some of the stories seem unlikely, the stuff of legends. I remember reading about the child Jesus playing with his friends, creating a bird out of clay, and then praying it to life in his hands and watching as the sparrow flew away. But while that story is not confirmed by anything in the Scriptures, it’s in the Protoevangelium of James that we learn other traditions (such as the details regarding the life of Anna and Joachim) which are presumed accurate, and which are confirmed by events in the canonical Gospels.

It’s in the Gospel of James that we see the story of Mary’s Presentation at the Temple. From infancy, the story tells us, Anna and Joachim — devout parents grateful that God granted them a child in their later years — dedicated her to God. When she was 3 years old, Mary’s parents took her to the Temple in Jerusalem, where she would live and learn to serve in the Temple worship. Mary remained in the Temple until she reached puberty, when she was betrothed to Joseph.

All this is to explain the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the Church observes on Nov. 21.

The Italian artist Titian, the most prominent 16th century artist in the renowned Venetian school, recreated the story of the Presentation of Mary in oils. The painting is displayed in Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia.

More recently, award-winning artist Neilson Carlin included Anna and Joachim, doting grandparents, in his painting of the Holy Family which was the symbol for the Vatican’s World  Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in 2015.

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at West Allis Central High School on July 23 in West Allis, Wisconsin.

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