Saints

SAINTS JOACHIM AND ANNA AND THE OIL-BEARING WOMEN

On Tuesday, August 24, the Armenian Church commemorates Saints Joachim and Anna, parents of Mary, the mother of Christ. Joachim, son of Barpathir, was a descendant of King David, to whom God had revealed that the Savior of the world would be born through his descendants. Anna was a descendant of the tribe of Levi through her father and the tribe of Judah through her mother. Joachim and Anna were childless through years of marriage. Joachim fasted for forty days in the desert and both of them prayed for a child, ultimately placing their trust in God’s will. An angel appeared to each of them telling them that in spite of their old age they would be the parents of a daughter.

On the same day the Church remembers the oil-bearing women (Myrophores). These are the eight women who are identified as the oil- or myrrh-bearers in the four Gospels who had different roles during Christ’s ministry, at the Cross, and the tomb on Easter morning. The eight women are: Mary Magdalene, Mary (Theotokos), Joanna, Salome, Mary (wife of Cleopas), Susanna, Mary of Bethany, and Martha of Bethany.

Frankincense and Myrrh were the “gifts of kings,” more valuable than gold. Myrrh is mentioned frequently in both the Old and New Testaments. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were the precious offerings to Jesus by the three Wise Men (Matthew 2:11). Myrrh is mentioned occasionally throughout the life of Jesus of Nazareth: “And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh,” (Mark 15:23); after his death, “Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred-pound weight,” which was used to prepare the Body for burial (John 19:39).

O God, by wise foreknowledge you established the mystery of the holy church, having laid down the assembly of the righteous as its deep and firm foundation; through their prayers, have mercy on us. The blessing given by you to husband and wife, the pair created by God, buds forth today in Joachim and Anna like a splendid flower; through their prayers, have mercy on us. Today you manifested from Anna the promise given to Abraham, our patriarch according to the Spirit, in the union of staffs both priestly and kingly; through their prayers, have mercy on us. O God, without beginning, unspeakable, boundless might, from the beginning of the ages you have cared for the sons of Adam, today by grace from above, you have designated by her birth the mother of your chosen and only-begotten Son. Through her prayers, have mercy on us.

(Canon to Saints Joachim and Anna from the liturgical canons of the Armenian Church)