“By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from the reproach of childlessness (ὀνειδισμοῦ ἀτεκνίας)…” (Kontakion or hymn of the Byzantine feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God)

Sts. Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Most Pure Virgin Mary, were reproached and, one could say, “discriminated against,” because for most of their marriage they had no children. They earnestly prayed for God to grant them children, yet He remained unresponsive for most of their lives.

Joachim and Anna’s community saw their childlessness as a sign of God’s displeasure, although the couple was virtuous and pious, leading a God-centered life. Thus human opinion presumed to be capable of reading a “sign,” although it lacked the full story behind the “sign.” And that full story was known only to God’s mind. It was His plan for this couple that their prolonged “fruitlessness” and public humiliation was to be crowned late in life, producing the Blessed among Women.

So God’s unresponsiveness can also be a “sign.” In some area, in some respect, God might withhold His gifts, both in my life or in the lives of people I know. But His silence can also be a gift, leading me to growth, as does His word, when I accept it in faith. My acceptance of God’s silence in my life teaches me patience, courage, humility, and compassion for others in a similar situation. Let me be attentive to God’s silence today, and accept myself and others as we are, barren but for His grace.

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