On December 22nd (the 9th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the conception of the Most-holy Theotokos by the righteous Saint Anna.
In the land of Galilee, in the city of Nazareth, there lived the righteous couple Joachim and Anna, who were descendants of kings and high priests. This couple so pleased God with their pious life, that He chose them to become the parents of the Holy Virgin, the fore-chosen Mother of God. But just as the Lord Himself was to become incarnate from a Most-holy Mother, so the Mother of God was to be born of holy and pure parents. By the will of God Joachim and Anna remained childless until a very old age, so that in the conception and birth of their Daughter from barren and aged parents the power of God’s grace would be manifest, and a divine sign would be given to mankind.
For a long time the righteous Joachim and Anna sorrowed and wept over their childlessness, and were subjected to mockery and scorn from those around them, because the Jews of those times, who awaited the coming of the Messiah from the ancestry of David, looked upon barrenness as a sign of God’s punishment. The pious spouses, however, never lost hope in God’s mercy, and for their patience and unfailing faith in God their grief finally turned into joy, and their disgrace – into great honor and dignity.
Once, when Saint Anna in great sorrow prayed to God in her garden, the Lord sent an Angel who foretold her of the forthcoming conception and birth of a Maiden, which soon came to pass. The Church commemorates the conception of the Holy Virgin as being in accordance with God’s pledge, but at the same time springing from a physical union, thus pointing out that the Virgin Mary was born under natural human laws, and that in His incarnation the Lord Jesus Christ fully inherited from His Most-holy Mother the essence of mankind. The conception of the Holy Virgin Mary brought joy not only to Her parents, but to the entire world, because it was the first harbinger of God’s promise of mankind’s redemption through the coming of the Saviour down to earth.