Today is the feast day of St. Joachim and St. Anne who are the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Do you know why they are often depicted embracing near a city gate? Here is the story.
Of course, what we know of St. Joachim and St. Anne comes from non-Biblical sources dated many decades after the New Testament was written. These accounts are considered pious stories that certainly are in line with how God worked through His people in preparing for the coming of His Son.
St. Joachim was a wealthy man from Nazareth. He was known for his generosity especially toward the poor. He married St. Anne who was from the big city of Jerusalem and the couple settled near the Temple. They were pious, devoted to each other, and happy with one exception.
They were unable to conceive a child.
On a certain Jewish feast day, St. Joachim went to make a sacrifice at the temple as he was wont to do. However, a man who knew St. Joachim told him that his sacrifice would be rejected because he was considered cursed as he had no children.
The insult stung, and St. Joachim, instead of returning home, left the city of Jerusalem to fast and pray in order for his "curse" to be lifted.
St. Anne, not knowing what had happened to St. Joachim, also began to pray. She learned about the reason that St. Joachim had not returned home for several days, and she prayed that if they were granted a child, the child would be fully dedicated to God.
In response to their prayers, an angel separately appeared to St. Anne and St. Joachim to let them know that they would have a child who will be blessed by the whole world.
As a sign, St. Anne was to go out and meet her husband who would be coming back into Jerusalem at the Golden Gate of the city.
They met and embraced as they shared their stories and rejoiced in the beautiful gift from God which they had received.
St. Anne indeed conceived a child whom they named Mary. When she grew older, she was dedicated to God at the temple.