THE KISS OF BLISS: ‘The meeting at the Golden Gate’ by Giotto (1304 – 1306)

Barren! That is what they called her; for even after twenty years of marriage, they had no children. As she walked down the narrow streets of Nazareth, a town in Galilee, the side-walls often echoed scorns and despiteful whispers. Cursed! They repeated. Her husband Joaquim though perfectly pious was sterile. They were regarded childless and unfruitful. And yet, how great was their faith, for they continued to serve the Lord trusting in His greater providence and mercy. 

It was the day of solemnity in Jerusalem. All the men in the city had gathered in the Temple built by Solomon to offer their choicest gifts to the Almighty. Joaquim, blessed with riches and a generous heart, brought a double offering to the Most High. He sought forgiveness and atonement for his sins. However, how terrible was his remorse when the minister of the Temple drove him away with these words, ‘Thou art not worthy to enter into the Temple for you have not conceived a child for Israel.’

Having been insulted and shamed in the midst of a large congregation, Joaquim left the town weeping and lamenting. He went off to the wilderness to fast and pray and did not return for five months. His wife, Anna, was disconsolate. Childless, she was now at the verge of widowhood. How could the God of Sarah and Rachel, Samson and Samuel not pay heed to her exceeding distress?

Her constant knocks opened the gates of heaven. The angel of the Lord appeared to her saying, ‘Do not be afraid for a daughter will be born unto you. She will be your descendant and will be called blessed for all generations. Arise, therefore and go up to the Golden Gate. As a sign of what I have said, you will meet your husband of whom you have been so concerned.’

 Anna wept for joy! She hurried across the town towards the Golden Gate. As she raised her eyes she saw Joaquim at a distance arriving with a herd of lambs. At once, she threw off her black cloak of mourning and dressed herself with the colour of hope. Then, she ran to him and embraced him, thanking God and exclaiming, ‘I was a widow but now I am not anymore.’

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