Today is the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, grandparents of Jesus and parents of the Virgin Mary. As tradition holds, Joachim and Ann were childless well into advanced age, are were even ridiculed for their apparent sterility. Though they are not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, we know their names because of their appearance in the Protevangelion of James.
According to tradition, Joachim and Anne were wealthy, faithful people who happened to be infertile and suffered the accompanying societal shame carried by such a state. As divine providence would have it, the angel Gabriel appeared to them and told them that Anne would give birth to a daughter who would be the vessel of God. The theme of the barren being rewarded for their faithfulness appears often throughout biblical texts, and was a theme no also enjoyed by no less than the grandparents of Jesus.
When my grandmother was living, an oil painting of two lovebirds nestling together underneath some loose, desert brush was one of her many oil paintings, and was always my favorite. Something about the birds’ simplistic and sure love resonated with me. After she passed, a few of us received her paintings, and one Christmas, I unwrapped the lovebirds painting to great joy. Today, I keep the painting above my office door.
My grandmother’s creative energy lives within me, and this painting keeps her memory alive within me. It reminds me that I am not a separate entity, but someone with a blessed lineage, a loving family, and that I simply am because my grandparents and other ancestors were.
Do you remember the Gospel reading on Christmas Eve that goes through Jesus’ lineage? I used to always find this particular reading to be painfully boring. Not only did it seem to be just a very long list of names, but to add to the experience of hearing it, whoever proclaimed this Gospel passage usually butchered about half of the names. Every year Shealtiel, the father of Zerubbabel, probably rolled over in his grave as another well-meaning deacon oratorically tripped over his wicked consonant-vowel stamp. As years passed, I eventually grew to appreciate and become fascinated with lineage — both Christ’s and my own. I take find it becomes a spiritual exercise of sorts to meditate upon where I come from and how it affects who I am, and where I am going.
My grandparents were of another generation, a generation that held ideas and beliefs to which I could not subscribe and sometimes, could barely stomach. Yet, I know they loved me. The nail I once used to crucify them, stained with the blood of their earthly imperfections, now hangs a picture of two lovebirds nestling underneath some brush. It reminds me that after all goes away, only love truly remains. On this feast day of Jesus’ grandparents, I find myself asking, With whom can I share that love today?