I’d never heard the names of Mary’s parents until I became Catholic. As an Evangelical Protestant, we kept it simple. What do we know about Mary’s parents from Sacred Scripture? Nothing. And so, we left it at that. We assumed that the lineage of Mary had been lost over the centuries. We didn’t realize that the Church had always known the names of her mother and father. According to Church Tradition, Mary’s mother was named Anne and her father was Joachim.
I find it interesting to think of Our Lord’s grandmother during Advent. I simply cannot imagine what it was like for Anne to say goodbye to her pregnant daughter and watch as the couple left Nazareth and headed down the road for Bethlehem. Anne must have known that the birth would come before she would see her daughter again. She must have treasured those final days and hours, carefully preparing her daughter for childbirth and the care of the umbilical cord, the technique for swaddling the newborn, and the finer points of nursing.
She must have sent her daughter off with a mother’s blessing: may your labor be quick and easy. She must have been overcome with longing, when she placed her hand on her daughter’s swollen belly and felt the Messiah kick.
She must have felt all these things – if she was like me. If she was like every first time grandmother.
I wonder, too, what it was like after the census. When the Holy Family realized they would not be returning to Nazareth any time soon, did they send word to the grandparents that their grandson had been safely born? Did they tell someone who was traveling back to Nazareth to inform Anne and Joachim of the change in their plans? That they were going to Egypt? That they couldn’t come back for a very long time?
Did the messenger tell the grandparents in Nazareth that God had another plan for the little Holy Family?
And did Anne cry at the news? Did she long to see her daughter one more time? Did she ache to hold the grandson who would save her people?
Sometime during this month, God willing, I will see my daughter again. She might be resting in a hospital bed, watching her little boy as he sleeps in the bassinet nearby. Maybe she will be holding him when I walk through the door. Maybe she will be feeding him.
I pray that I will be a wise grandmother. A good grandmother. Precisely the kind of grandmother this little boy will need. As we count these final days of Advent, anticipating the arrival of our Infant King, I will be thinking of the Holy Family, but I will also be contemplating the grandparents back in Nazareth, who kissed their daughter goodbye over two thousand years ago – and gave their precious girl and her unborn child to a world that needed them both desperately.