Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day in the Church calendar when we remember how God intervened in the course of human relationships to create the perfect vessel to contain the Word of God — the New Ark of the Covenant, if you will.
According to Tradition, the names of Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anne. They were a devout, childless couple. Both these facts did not escape the attention of those around them, since infertility at that time was regarded as divine judgment. Most especially, they did not escape the attention of the Almighty.
So when St. Anne conceived an infant, their joy was so great that they immediately dedicated the child to the service of God in the Temple. The child they had prayed and longed for all those years, with great spiritual courage they returned to God, just as Abraham had offered Isaac. And in the same way, God returned the child to the parents — with the understanding that this child was no ordinary child, but would be forever destined to accomplish something remarkable for God.
Isaac became the father of the Hebrew people. Mary became the mother of all mankind, the New Eve, when from the Cross Jesus gave his mother to his beloved disciple, and through him to all of us.
St. Anne also had a remarkable job to do. It was her task to raise the woman who would become the Theotokos, the God-bearer. And hers the task of relinquishing, little by little, all mothers hold most dear. At the age of three, Mary was brought to live in the Temple. A few years later, she returned home to prepare for her adult life … and was soon found to be pregnant. No doubt this caused many a sleepless night for Mary’s parents, just as it did for Mary’s betrothed. And yet, ultimately they held on to the fact that they had offered Mary to God when she was young; whatever happened, she belonged to Him every but as she belonged to them.
And so, on this day when we remember Mary’s beginnings, we offer a prayer for our own children as well. No matter how our children came to us — through birth or adoption, or through simple association — they are not ours to possess. Ultimately they belong to God. It is us simply to take care of them as best we can, as long as they are with us.
St. Anne, patroness of small miracles, pray for us.