St. Joachim was the son of Varpafir from the lineage of Judah and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest from the lineage of Levi as was Aaron the high priest. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Zovia and Anna. Mary married and lived in Bethlehem and gave birth to Salome; Zovia married and also lived in Bethlehem and gave birth to Elizabeth the mother of St. John the Forerunner; Anna married Joachim in Nazareth and, in their old age, gave birth to Mary, the Most Holy Birth-giver of God. Joachim and Anna lived together in marriage for fifty years and were barren. The lived devoutly and quietly and, of all their income, they spent one third on themselves, the second, they distributed to the poor and the third, they offered to the Temple. They were considerably well-off. Once, when they, in their old age, came to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice to God, the high priest Issachar reprimanded Joachim saying: "You are not worthy that a gift be accepted from your hands for you are childless." Others, who had children also, pushed Joachim back as being unworthy. This greatly grieved these two aged souls and, in great sorrow, they returned to their home. Then the two of them gave themselves in prayer to God, that He work a miracle on them as He once did to Abraham and Sarah and to give them a child as a comfort in their old age. God sent His angel, who announced to them the birth of " a daughter most-blessed, by whom all nations on earth will be blessed and through whom the salvation of the world will come." Anna immediately conceived and, in nine months, gave birth to the Holy Virgin Mary. St. Joachim lived for eighty years and Anna for seventy-nine years and then presented themselves to the Lord.
This Council met in Ephesus in 431 A.D. at the time of Emperor Theodosius the Younger. There were two hundred holy fathers present at this Council. This Council condemned Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, because of his heretical teachings concerning the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the birth of the Lord. That is, Nestorius did not want to call the Holy Virgin, the Birth-giver of God [the Theotokos] but rather the Birth-giver of Christ. The Holy Fathers condemned the teachings of Nestorius and confirmed that the Holy Virgin be called the Theotokos. Besides this, the Council confirmed the decisions of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, especially the Symbol of Faith, the Nicaean-Constantinopolian Creed, ordering that no one take away from nor add to this Creed.
Severian was a nobleman from Sebaste. At the time of the martyrdom of the forty martyrs in Sebaste (March 9), he visited these martyrs in prison, encouraging and ministering to them. After their glorious death, he was also arrested, beaten and tortured for Christ and, finally, was hanged from a tree with a heavy stone around his neck and another from his leg. Giving thanks to God for all, Severian gave up his spirit during the reign of Licinius in the year 320 A.D.
After a God-pleasing life and suffering, Theophanes rested peacefully in the year 299 A.D.
Nicetas lived in Constantinople in the twelfth century. He so pleased God by his life that the church doors opened of themselves before him and the icon lamps lit by themselves. Such was the power of his prayer. At the wish of Deacon Sozon, and by the prayer of Nicetas, a priest appeared from the other world with whom Sozon had been estranged and remained unreconciled. At first, there appeared a row of priests vested in white and, after that, another row of priests in red vestments. Sozon recognized his opponent among them and made peace with him. This occurred at night in the church of Blachernae.
SAINT JOACHIM AND SAINT ANNA
[PARENTS OF THE THEOTOKOS]
Rejoice, O barren one,
Rejoice, O aged Anna
You will conceive and give birth
To a wondrous child, a chosen one.
As one time, did the aged Sarah,
As the mother of Samson,
As the mother of Samuel,
As the mother of John -
More glorious will you be, than all,
For you will give birth from the womb
Wonderful virgin, the unique one
Wonderful mother of the Most High King.
Rejoice, O Joachim
Father of the mother unseen,
Whom the Creator, desires with glory
The unseen to clothe.
The law looses its power
When God wills and where He wills,
Who, with God, will argue,
To argue with God - who will?
Not by disposition, but by love
God, His laws, changes,
Before love, all laws
Stand as though they do not exist.
When men hunger - the Lord
The dry field, makes fertile,
Because of the spiritual hunger of the world
The barren one, makes fertile.
For the salvation of men, the Lord
Organizes all the best,
That is why the entire Church of the saints
Cries out to Him: Glory! Glory!
One should not give alms with pride but rather with humility, considering that the one to whom the alms is given is better than oneself. Did not the Lord Himself say: "Insomuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (St. Matthew 25:40). Theophanes the Confessor, even as a child, possessed a mind illumined by the light of Christ. Once, while walking along the street, he saw an unclothed child freezing. He quickly removed his clothes, clothed the child and thus warmed him and brought him to life. He then returned home naked. His startled parents asked him: "Where are your clothes?" To that Theophanes replied: "I clothed Christ." That is why he was given the grace of Christ and was later a great ascetic, a sufferer for the Faith of Christ and a miracle-worker. If, therefore, we give alms regardless in whose name or in our own name, we cannot avoid pride which, as soon as it appears in the heart, destroys all the good deeds performed. When we give to the beggar as a beggar and not as Christ, we cannot avoid either pride or disdain. What value is there in performing an act of mercy, taking pride ourselves and disdaining the man? Virtue is not a virtue when it is mixed with sin, just as milk is not milk when it is mixed with gasoline or vinegar.
To contemplate the wisdom of Solomon (1Kings 3):
About the witness of God about God
"If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true" (St. John 5:31).
This is how the Lord spoke to a false and lying people. He spoke these words to the elders of the Jews, not as an instruction, but rather as a reproach. They did not believe one man when he spoke of himself, but rather sought two witnesses. Brethren, do not even think that what the Lord says of Himself is not true but rather that the Jews did not consider that as true. From thence, according to the interpretation of our holy fathers, the words: "My witness is not true," must be understood to mean, that this witness was not true in the eyes of the Jews. And that every word that the Lord Jesus spoke about Himself is true, as He expressed in another place saying: "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true" (St. John 8:14). Here the Lord teaches; there He reproaches; here He confirms how a thing is; there, however, how the thing seemed to be to the Jews. The Jews did not believe His witness about Himself but, they sought other witnesses. He cited three great witnesses: first, the witness of His own works: "The very works that I do - bear witness of Me" (St. John 5:36); second, the witness of His Heavenly Father Who witnessed about Him as His Son on the Jordan and on Tabor: "And the Father Himself, Who sent Me, has witnessed of Me" (St. John 5:37); and finally, the third, the witness of the Holy Scriptures: "Search the scripturesthese are they which testify [witness] of Me" (St. John 5:39). With a bit of understanding, what other kind of witness would a man require? But, the understanding of the Jewish elders was darkened to so great an extent that they were able to see nothing and to understand nothing. When the Lord, the Lover of Mankind, did all that was necessary to save the Jewish elders and when they rejected all the witnesses about Him and by this, rejected even their own salvation, He then said to them: "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true" (St. John 8:14).
O, my brethren, let us not be stony-hearted as those blinded elders and let us not reject our only salvation. We do not seek any other witnesses but rather believe that which the Lord Jesus alone says of Himself. He said of Himself that He is the Truth: "I am the Truth" (St. John 14:6), and it is by this truth that we are nourished and saved.
O Lord Jesus, the Living Truth, the Eternal Truth, do not distance Yourself from us but enlighten us and save us.
With prayers for the good health of
Jessica Anne on her name day
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.