Joachim and Anna could not have children. Anna was barren. The Bible mentions several times the birth of significant people by barren women. Isaac, the son of Abraham was conceived by the barren Sarah, after the announcement of the angel. Prophet Samuel as conceived by the barren Hannah, by the word of Prophet Eli. John the Baptist was conceived by the barren Elizabeth, after the announcement of the angel.
All of them prayed constantly to God that He grant them a child. Some of them waited until very old age, age when women can not naturally bear children anymore. Joachim and Anna also prayed all their life for a child. The angel appeared to both of them separately to announce that they will have a child. After they found out, they immediately ran to find each other to share the good news. Upon meeting, they embraced, which is beautifully depicted in the icons. Even though the conception was announnced by the angel, Joachim and Anna conceived the most natural way that a man and a woman can conceive. Anna conceived the one, who would grow up to become worthy of being called the Mother of God.
The barrenness of these women serves as a reminder of our own spiritual barrenness and the possibility of yielding fruits of repentance. The barren women of the Bible put their trust in God and prayed fervently with faith and hope. So too we do not despair of our own lack of spiritual fruit, but pray all the more that God may help us nurture the seed of repentance. Just as the holiest of men and women came forth from barren wombs, so can the greatest fruit of repentance spring forth from the most sinful soul, when there is faith and hope in the Lord.
The barren Sarah became the mother of many nations through her son Isaac. The barren Anna became the mother of the woman who would give birth to the salvation of the human race. And we, who lack virtue, can become holy. Even the greatest sinner can become the greatest saint.
By the prayers of the holy and righteous ancestors of God Joachim and Anna, and their daughter, the Most Holy Theotokos, may the Lord save us and grant us strength to bring fruits worthy of repentance from our barren souls.
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