A feast? Because someone got pregnant? Obviously the church considers Mary’s conception of great importance. Here’s why.
Scripture repeatedly presents special children as unlikely children. Isaac, Samson, and Samuel were all miraculously born to women who long suffered the grief and disappointment of barrenness.
It’s the same with Mary.
Joachim and Anna grieved their childlessness. Eventually, their pain and frustration became acute and, according to The Protoevangelium of James, a second-century book read and circulated in the early church, Joachim fled to the wilderness to pray.
Unfortunately, Joachim was too distraught to tell his wife his plans. In her husband’s prolonged absence Anna feared the worst, leaving her to mourn both her barrenness and her presumed widowhood.
Anna’s grief became oppressive to the house, until an apparently insensitive maidservant finally urged her to get out for a walk. Anna took her advice and left for an afternoon stroll through the garden, eventually finding a seat beneath a laurel tree.
“O God of my fathers,” she prayed, “bless me and listen to my prayer, just as you blessed the womb of Sarah and gave her a son, Isaac” (Proto. 2.4).
Anna’s prayer reveals a devoted heart, one familiar with the history and tradition of her people. Anna self-consciously identified with Sarah and hoped that God would bring her a child the same way. Her hope was not in vain.