September is the beginning of Autumn or Fall (Greek: Φθινόπωρο) in the northern hemisphere, and the beginning of spring (Greek: Άνοιξη) in the southern hemisphere. However, it was also the beginning of the new civil year in Constantinople during the Byzantine period. It was during the Byzantine period that Christianity took root, although the schism later separated the Church into the Western Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, with the Greek Orthodox Church dominating.
There are many important religious celebrations during September in the Greek Orthodox Church. One such Feast Day is that of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated on 8 September. It celebrates the birth of the Virgin to Joachim and Anne after almost 50 years of childlessness. The great burden of being childless also influenced their participation in community life. When Joachim (Greek: Ιωακείμ) went to offer a sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem, he was turned away. He retreated into the mountains and prayed to God. Soon after, he and his wife Anne (Greek: Άννα) received a prophecy of Anne’s pregnancy.
When Mary was born, she was dedicated to God and taken to the temple in Jerusalem as a consecrated virgin at the age of three. It can be said that St Joachim and St Anne laid the groundwork for Mary’s future as the mother of Jesus. They visited her often, but as they were both old, first Joachim and then Anne passed away leaving Mary an orphan at the age of eleven under the care of the temple.
As the civil year in Constantinople began on September 1, it is believed that the Nativity of Mary was also established for September 8 as it marked a new beginning and referred to the expectations that people had.
The arrival of Mary brought a glimmer of light and dispersed the darkness of sin. The Solemnity of the Immaculate conception (the belief that the conception happened miraculously) was later fixed for December 8th, nine months prior. This is another very important religious day.
Saint Joachim is named as the patron saint of parents and grandparents.
Saint Anne is named the patron saint of unmarried women, housewives and educators. She is called upon for conceiving children and for help in difficult childbirth.
Although there is more than one Feast Day to commemorate a Saint’s Day, in the case of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, besides having their individual Feast Day, they are both commemorated on September 9, the day after the celebration of Mary’s birth.