Friday, January 14, 2011

The Gospel of Mary - Chapter 4

1. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood there, saying, "Anna, Anna, the Lord God has heard your prayer. You will conceive and bear, and your child will be spoken of in all the inhabited world." Then Anna said, "As the Lord my God lives, whether I bear a boy or a girl, I will bring it as an offering to the Lord my God, and it will minister to him all the days of its life."

Even though the angel isn't named, I've heard tradition says that it was the Archangel Gabriel who bore the message to Anna, just as he would later announce Christ's conception to Mary.

There are some really obvious parallels with the conception of Samuel by Hannah in this story. Both Hannah and Anna prayed for children and both swore to dedicate the child to God for its entire life. Though Hannah prayed for a son, Anna just wanted a child - she didn't care whether it was male or female. Oh! Interestingly, Anna is a form of the name Hannah. Random fact of the day. There you go. :)

Two more angels appear to Anna to inform her that Joachim is returning with his flocks. I say 'two more', but maybe it was Gabriel and another angel coming back? Joachim had also been visited by an angel (again, tradition says it was the Archangel Gabriel) who told him: "Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down from here; behold, Anna your wife will conceive in her womb."

So Joachim immediately jumped up and came down from his camp. He calls to his shepherds to "bring me twelve pure, spotless lambs for an offering to the Lord my God; and bring twelve pure, spotless calves for the priests and elders; and bring me a hundred goats, which will be for all the people."

Joachim, on the promise of the angel alone has enough faith that God will deliver what He has promised that he's sacrificing and celebrating already.

Joachim and Anna meet at the gate of the city and it's a joyful reunion. I'm telling you, I feel like there's so much genuine love in this couple. I know it's weird to think that from lines written nearly two thousand years ago, but there you have it.

"And Anna ran and threw her arms around his neck, saying, 'Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly! For the widow is no longer a widow, and the childless woman conceives in her womb!' And Joachim went into the house and rested that first day."

There are a ton of icons showing this reunion. Some of them are very affectionate - you can see Anna and Joachim kissing. There's even one I've seen with a bed in the background. There's no equivocation, no blushing about what a married couple will do. Perfectly natural and good - the expression of love between a married couple.

The date of Mary's conception is traditionally December 9th, a feast day in the Eastern church since the sixth century. Her birth day is on September 8th.


  1. Now I think the "widow" language might just refer to her being alone. Even if she knew exactly where he was, it must have been hard for a woman to be alone at the time, and especially to know that he left (indirectly) because of her "failure." Maybe she was afraid he wouldn't come back.

    I remember my class at the Catholic seminary was cancelled didn't meet on December 9th because they were all in special services or something. We were all confused. "Does Christmas start way early for you guys?" :D

  2. Great post! Also I think Anna/Hannah mean "grace." I love the icons and you are right about married love. It's never shameful in the Bible because it's how God meant it and designed it to be best. (So I've heard. :))

  3. sanil,

    *laugh* Maybe it's just me but if I knew where my husband was hiding out I'd march down there and drag him home so we could fight in comfort. :) I think this might be one of those things where everyone sees the motivations a little differently just because we're given words and clue but not all the background as to why the person says or does what they do.

    I still can't decide if I think Anna knew where he'd gone or not. Certainly we're not told that his shepherds were surprised to see him, so maybe they knew he'd camped out on some remote part of his property and told Anna who was mourning because she didn't expect him to come back. Like she was afraid he'd either die or come back having decided to divorce her or take a second wife.

    Huh. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8th in the Catholic church. I wonder why the seminary you were taking the class at had off on the 9th.

  4. Susanne,

    You know more about names than I do! :)

    I just find it awesome to see evidence of the celebration of love in Christianity, especially given the modern attitudes towards it in so many churches and how they claim that their attitude is the ancient one. :p

  5. Oh, it was probably the 8th. In fact, I just looked at my calendar and found out the 9th was a Thursday (and my class was on Wednesday), so it definitely was. I didn't remember the actual date, just knew it was around that time and I saw you mention the 9th.

  6. Shame on you! I require accuracy in all your recollections! :pppp :D

  7. Awww I loved reading about this, beautiful how they really show their love for each other.

  8. It is very beautiful and sweet. :)


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