It is an indubitable maxim, in which all theologians concur with the Angelic Doctor, that God gives us His graces in a manner conformable and proportionate to the quality and dignity of the state and condition to which He calls us. And so Divine Bounty having chosen St. Joachim and St. Anne to be father and mother of her who was to be Queen of all the Saints, Mother of the Saint of Saints, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, filled them with all His gifts and graces so that they were possessed of extraordinary sanctity. And since the Father of mercies and God of all consolation willed through them to give her to us who, after her Son, is the most excellent model of all perfection, the most high throne of all the virtues, and the most rich treasure of all sanctity, who can doubt that He showered upon them, who were to be the source and origin of this immense sea of graces, all imaginable virtues and perfections, and these in a very high degree?
We may behold in them, then, the most lively faith, most firm hope and most ardent love for God and very perfect charity for their neighbor, unparalleled piety, and devotion, profound humility, extraordinary abstinence, and marvelous purity.
Behold the vigor of their faith and the firmness of their hope. The consideration of their sterility ought to have debarred them from all hope of having descendants; but it may be said of them as of their father Abraham, they believed and hoped even against hope: “In spem contra spent” (Rom. 4:18). This rendered them worthy to be the father and mother of the Mother of God and of all the children of God.
The Angel announced to them that God would give them a daughter destined to become Mother of the world’s Redeemer. They knew that this was a thing impossible, according to nature. The voice of humility would have persuaded them of their utter unworthiness of such a favor. But several holy Doctors assure us that their faith was so strong and their hope so unwavering that they never entertained the slightest doubt of the accomplishment of the Angel’s promise.
Three very considerable proofs may be adduced of their ardent love for God: the sanctity of their manners and the purity of their life, which, says St. Jerome, was simple, innocent and upright before God, and irreproachable before men; their great charity for their neighbor which is the just measure of one’s love for God, since if we have little for the one, we have little for the other. If charity for our neighbor dwells not in our heart, neither does love of God dwell there: “If any man say I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 Jn. 4:20). Finally, their love for God led them to deprive themselves of their well beloved Child, their sole glory, treasure, consolation, all their delight.
All this they gave to the Divine Majesty in her person, and that, moreover, when she was but three years of age. It is true that they had made a vow to this effect, but they might have kept her many more years with them, and accomplished their vow later.
As for their charity towards their neighbor, St. Jerome testifies to it in a singular manner; also to their perfect detachment from the things of this world, which the generality of men idolize. They divided their revenue into three parts. The first part was apportioned to the ministers of the Temple; the second, to assist the poor, to provide for pilgrims and to succor the afflicted; the third part they devoted to their own needs and wants.
If you would judge of their piety and devotion, behold its admirable fruit, this marvelous Child. For Blessed Andrew of Jerusalem declares that the ordinary exercise of St. Anne was prayer, and that she offered to God many vows and sacrifices. St. Epiphanius says as much of St. Joachim, adding that the most holy Virgin was the reward of their devotion.
According to the words of the Son of God, humility is the measure of sanctity (Mt. 18:4). The very eminent sanctity of St. Joachim and St. Anne, then, is conclusive proof that their humility was profound.
Moreover, God elevated them to the sublime dignity of father and mother of the Queen of Heaven, and grandparents of the sovereign Monarch of the universe. This is another infallible proof of their wonderful humility, since Divine Majesty exalts only the humble, and that in proportion to their self-abasement: “Qui se humiliat exaltabitur.”
Again, the opprobrium and confusion which their barrenness had brought upon them during the space of twenty years, had very much fortified and augmented their humility.
Add to this that God, having chosen St. Joachim and St. Anne to be the grandparents of the King of the lowly and parents of the most humble of all creatures, it is but natural to expect a considerable resemblance between the humility of the parents and that of the children.
Finally, the humility of the daughter is a very powerful proof of the humility of the father and mother, since the one is, in part, the effect of the other.