The Kiss at the Golden Gate

It was my wedding anniversary several days ago! I am still amazed that it’s already been six years… time has flown by so quickly!

Of course, I suppose that’s to be expected… after all, time flies when you’re having fun, and let’s face it: my husband and I know how to have a good time! I’m still amazed how much I lucked out in finding him — he truly is an excellent man.

Did I mention that he’s also a hopeless romantic? Six roses for six years! Isn’t he the best???

Anyway, the whole occasion has got me thinking about love and marriage and all the things that accompany such an adventure. Which got me wondering:

Were there any artworks of married saints being sweet to each other??

And, sure enough, there are!

Remember last time, when I wrote about Jesus’s grandparents, Anne and Joachim? Their story is recounted in the Protoevangelium of James. This apocryphal account, which mirrors the gospel in several ways, is not considered to be a part of official scripture, for a number of different reasons.

And yet, it is a source of tradition! And there is a story of the meeting at the Golden Gate.

The story goes like this:

Before Mary was born, Joachim and Anne lived fairly comfortable lives! They knew that the Lord would be coming soon, which made them happy. They had great wealth — Joachim was even able to offer double the regular prescribed sacrifices! Everything seemed all right… except for one thing.

They had no children.

And this tore them apart. Joachim wanted to sacrifice more, but he wasn’t allowed to. Why? Because he had no children, which meant he wasn’t considered righteous. Indeed, when he looked at the book detailing family trees, he found that he was the only righteous man who didn’t have any heirs. And so, despondent, he went into the desert to pray and fast for forty days and nights.

Now, Anne was not happy about Joachim going into the desert with no intentions of eating anything, and was convinced that he was going to die. Convinced that she would be not only childless, but also a widow very soon, she grieved exceedingly. Going out, she prayed to God to give her a child, just as He had done when Sarah had seemed childless.

Well! An angel appeared separately to both to Joachim and Anne, telling them that God had heard their prayer and that they would conceive a child soon. And that they should go in haste to the Golden Gate of the Temple, where they would meet with each other.

And so Joachim went to his shepherds to gather some of his flock for sacrifice at the Temple (after all, if you’re going to the Temple, might as well glorify God with sacrifice, right?) and there they met!

The Protoevangelium of James describes their meeting like this:

And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive.

Protoevangelium of James, 4.

You can read the account here from the Protoevangelium of James here in all its glory! (This story of Anne and Joachim is paragraphs 1-5, if you’re interested!)

As far as their meeting, as depicted by artists?

Many artists depict it with them embracing gently. A bunch of artists depict it with Anne kind of looking shyly away. But my favorite depiction is this one by Giotto:

Meeting at the Golden Gate, from Scenes from the Life of Joachim, by Giotto
Meeting at the Golden Gate, from Scenes from the Life of Joachim, by Giotto, c. 1304-06. Cappella Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.

Look at that embrace! Look at that kiss!

Behind Joachim is the shepherd, leading the animals to the Temple. Behind Anne are some serving women who have accompanied her.

But Joachim and Anne steal the scene. They are positioned on the bridge, as if they are between the human and divine worlds — and indeed, they are, in a sense, because on the other side is the Temple. And there they stand as equals giving each other a kiss — one of the few kisses that were depicted in art at this time!

And it’s such a beautiful little scene that shows married love at its sweetest.

Yes, marriage can sometimes be a bit crazy and even downright scary at times. Saints Joachim and Anne knew this — after all, didn’t they go through a long bout of infertility with each other? That is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy!

And yet, at this moment, they are content to love each other and celebrate this blessing which God has granted to them.

May we too be content to trust in God, even when we do not feel that He is close, and celebrate the blessings that God has granted to us!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

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