The Holy Relics of Saints Joachim and Anna

The Holy Relics of Joachim and Anna were gifted to representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Anna on August 3, 2007 in the 10th Century Byzantine Church of the Mother of God Chalkeon, situated in Aristotelous Square in Thessalonica, Greece. The Very Reverend Cherubim Apostolou, an elder of the Theophileon Brotherhood of the Skete of Saint Anna of the Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos, Greece, with a small delegation received these relics from His Excellency Cardinal Joachim Miesner of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany in a private ceremony in 1997.

Joachim and Anna were the parents of the Mary, the mother of Jesus. What we know of them survives from several sources, primarily the Protoevangelion of James, the youngest of the seven children of Joseph the Betrothed and his first wife, Salome. Although portions of the text are considered factual, surviving copies of the Protoevangelion contain many later additions of a folkloric nature, which is why the book was not included in the canon of the New Testament.

Joachim was a herdsman of the tribe of Judah from Nazareth of Galilee while Anna was from Bethlehem of Judea, the daughter of Matthan the priest of the tribe of Levi. At the age of twenty, Joachim took Anna as his wife. They are said to have lived together for nearly fifty years without producing a child, vowing that if they did, the child would be dedicated to the service of the Lord.

James recounts that the priest Rueben rejected Joachim and his gifts on the Feast of the Dedication and the Feast of Lights on account that his childlessness. Joachim retreated from the temple, taking his flocks far into the mountains, vowing to fast and to pray until the Lord looked upon him. Anna left the Court of the Women, and the temple, and returned home where she wept, bewailing her widowhood and her childlessness.

The extra biblical account explains that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to both Joachim and Anna announcing that they would conceive and that they were to go to the Golden Gate in Jerusalem, where they met and embraced, conceiving in their old age, and bore Mary at their home near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. Joachim was eighty years old when he died and Anna was seventy-nine when they reposed in peace.

The Holy Relics of Joachim and Anna, the maternal grandparents of the Christ, were taken from the Garden of Gethsemane and venerated by the early Christians. Although priceless treasurers of the Patriarchal See of Jerusalem, their Relics were shared with other Sees of Christendom. Dr. Stilianos Bakirtzidis, Professor of Hagiography with the Germany University in Thessalonica, explains that these Holy Relics were brought to France by Charlemagne in the 9th century.

They were later taken to Cologne, Germany, some relics being placed in the respective Cathedrals of Joachim and Anna, while other Relics were placed in the private collection of the Archbishop of Cologne. Professor Bakirtizidis has also concluded that the Holy Relics of Ss Joachim and Anna are extremely rare in the New World. In addition to a quarter-size piece from the skull of Saint Anna gifted to the parish in 2005, which can be traced to a convent in Cappadocia (modern Turkey), the Holy Relic of Joachim is likely the only one to have reached Greece and remains the only Holy Relic of Joachim in an Orthodox Church in the Americas.

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