The Orthodox Church has celebrated the feast of St. Joachim for a very long time. Much longer than the Roman rite has celebrated this feast. The feast has always been celebrated by them in close association with the birthday of Our Lady. Only later on in the Middle Ages was this feast introduced into the Western Church. At times the feast could be found celebrated the day after the Octave of the Nativity of the BVM on September 16th, but it was also celebrated on the day following the feast of the Conception of the BVM on December 9th.
In the early 16th century Pope Julian II introduced the feast into the Roman Kalendar and gave it a Major Double rank. The feast was located on March 20-ieth, the day following the feast of St. Joseph. Less than 5 decades after it had been introduced into the Roman Kalendar the feast was removed from the Roman Kalendar. This was done under the rising influence of rationalism which failed to understand hagiography and thus desired to remove the feast because of its lack of historical foundation. Mere historicity – of course – was never the point of hagiography in the first place. Legends of the Saints were never “biographies” in the modern sense.
In 1622 Pope Gregory XV reintroduced the feast of St. Joachim into the Roman Kalendar as a double and it has been featured in the Roman Kalendar ever since. In 1738 Pope Clement XII transferred the feast to the Sunday following the Assumption of his daughter (St. Mary) and gave restored it the rank of major double. The year 1879 saw Pope Leo XIII (who was himself baptized with the name Joachim) raised the feast of Joachim (and that of Anne) to the rank of a double of the second class. In the Anglican Breviary – which is modelled after the 1911 Pian Breviary) the feast of St. Joachim is still a double of the second class but it is no longer celebrated on a Sunday. The feast now – quite appropriately – follows immediately upon the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God St. Mary, Joachim’s daughter.
The close association of Joachim and his daughter is also expressed in the fact that a commemoration of the Assumption is absent from the office today. Because St. Joachom’s feast is ranked as a double of the second class, and the Octave of the Assumption is a Common Octave there is no commemoration of the Octave in today’s Office. This is fitting in that in a way the feast of St. Joachim is a celebration of his daughter. Feasts that are of the same nature, or more precisely, that celebrate the same person are not both commemorated at the same time. Joachim is celebrated precisely because he is the father of the BVM! The character of St. Joachim is that of father. Not just any father, but the father of the one who gave birth to the Godman. Joachim refers to his daughter, Mary in her turn, refers to Jesus Christ. The saints – including St. Mary – always have their ultimate telos or goal in Jesus Christ. After all a saint is nothing more than one in whom Jesus Christ reveals Himself.
Fr. Gregory Wassen