Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, Parents of St. Mary of Nazareth (July 26)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia, U.S.A., the site of my confirmation on December 22, 1991

Family Stories

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The Assigned Readings for This Feast:

Genesis 17:1-8

Psalm 132:11-19 or Psalm 85:8-13

Luke 1:26-33

The Collect:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day the parents of Blessed Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Accounts of the parents of St. Mary of Nazareth are legends.  They flow backward from Jesus, through his mother, and serve to fill the desire to understand what kind of grandparents our Lord had.  What kind of upbringing did the Mother of God have?

A summary of the traditional account follows:  Anne (a.k.a. Ann or Anna) and Joachim were an elderly couple living in Sepphoris, just a few miles from Nazareth.  Angels inform Anne and Joachim that they will have a daughter, who becomes Mary.  At age two they left Mary at the Temple, where she lived while betrothed to Joseph, a widower.  It was there, this account says, that the Annunciation occurred.  The rest of the story is canonical.

Roman Catholic theology includes the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which applies to Mary alone.  (The Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth are separate yet related.  I have been in the company of Protestant pastors who did not know the difference.) Dr.  Ludwig Ott, a pre-Vatican II expert in Roman Catholic theology, wrote in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (German original, 1952; English translation, 1954), quoting Pope Pius IX from 1854:  The Most Holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin” (page 199; reprinted by Roman Catholic Books, Fort Collins, Colorado).

So, what are we supposed to make of all this?

I admit freely to strong doubts regarding the Virgin Birth of Jesus, so the Immaculate Conception of Mary is out of the question for me.  Besides, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception rests partially on an Augustinian understanding of original sin.  (I have a Niebuhrian concept of original sin.)  Yet I revere St. Mary as the Mother of God, and conclude that any mother who raised a person as well-adjusted as Jesus must have been well-adjusted herself.  And that must have come from her parents.  That suffices for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2010

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

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