After fifty years of marriage, the righteous Joachim and Anna remained childless. They had been praying to God all these years to relieve them of their barrenness, and at last, the Archangel Gabriel visited them both and announced that they would soon have a daughter, the Virgin Mary. The Russian Orthodox Church commemorates this event on 22 December as the feast of the conception of the Theotokos. On this feast day, we celebrate the fulfilment of the heartfelt prayer of the parents of the Virgin Mary. We anticipate her coming to this world, her dedication to God and her becoming the God-bearer, the Mother of Christ.
The icons of the feast depict Saints Joachim and Anna standing with their hands folded in prayer, and their eyes looking upward. They contemplate Mary, who stands above them with outstretched hands. They anticipate the coming of the Mother of God, who stands in the air with outstretched hands, trampling on a serpent under her feet.
The feast reminds us of the mystery and wisdom of the Divine Providence. The decades of barrenness that Joachim and Anna had dreaded received with meaning in eternity. Archangel Gabriel came to them, chosen to become the grandparents of Christ. Long before the birth of Christ, and His resurrection, the plan for our salvation already existed. He defeated death, just as Mary on the icon trampled on the serpent. He resurrected, promising us eternal life.
We celebrate Mary's conception as an element of this plan. Most of all, however, we celebrate the Lord, Who had desired for so long to redeem our souls.
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