Simeon and Anna: The last pair of the infancy story

December 29, 2010

The Pastor's Page

Presentation at St. Joseph in Beroun, MN

Three Great Pairs. Simeon and Anna are one of three couples in Luke’s Infancy Narrative (Lk 1:5-2:52).  Zechariah and Elizabeth are first, Mary and Joseph are second, and Simeon and Anna are third and last.  The most important couple is intentionally placed in the middle.

A Holy Pair for after Christmas. Simeon was a devout man and Anna was a prophetess, and both were in the Temple when Mary and Joseph presented their infant son Jesus for consecration to the Lord.  Their involvement with the Christ child is featured in the gospel readings after Christmas.  The account is proclaimed on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, Year B, and each year on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation.  It is also proclaimed on two weekdays in the Octave of Christmas, the part with Simeon on December 29 (Lk 2:22-35) and the part with Anna on December 30 (Lk 2:36-40).

A Pair of Elders. Simeon and Anna were both senior citizens.  Luke states that Anna was eighty-four.  Senior status can be inferred with Simeon.  The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, and the mention of his death may suggest that his time was drawing nearer.  Also, Simeon had spent a considerable amount of time waiting which suggests the passage of many years.

Anna on Aging Gracefully. Anna is a beautiful example of how to spend the later years of life.  She had suffered tremendously with the death of her husband and the subsequent grieving, emptiness, and loneliness.  This could have sent her into a tailspin.  She could have blamed God for her troubles, lost faith, and distanced herself from God with less prayer and less time in church.  Moreover, she might have felt that life was unfair, pouted, felt sorry for herself, and become bitter and resentful, crabby and mean.  Not Anna!  Her faith was unshakable, and she had a very bright and positive disposition.  She was grateful and hopeful, prayed morning and night, went to the Temple daily, and fasted on a regular basis.  As she dealt with the setbacks in her life, her personal holiness took a step forward, not backward.

Anna’s Lesson for Seniors (and everyone). Over the course of life, all of us suffer painful losses and bitter disappointments.  Anna teaches us how to deal with them constructively.  She could have stayed home alone, but she went to the Temple each day.  It is important to get out of the house and remain connected to others.  Her example also makes a solid case for daily Mass.  She no longer had family obligations and had more time on her hands.  She could have gone to the markets and gossiped.  Today’s seniors could spend long hours on the telephone or watch one TV program after another.  Anna filled her time with frequent prayer from morning to night.  Anna’s example shows us that as the years go by, our prayer life can intensify, not diminish.

Simeon on Spiritual Readiness for Death. Simeon was a holy man in the Temple.  Religious artists frequently portray him as a priest, but there is no mention of this in the gospel.  He is described as righteous, a person who carefully observed the precepts of the Law, and devout, a person of faith, prayer, and virtue.  Furthermore, the Holy Spirit was upon him:  he was close to God, wise and strong, loving and kind.  With all of these wonderful spiritual traits, he was still not ready to die, a day that would not come until he had seen the Messiah.  Then, on the day that Simeon took Jesus into his arms, he declared, “Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant” (Lk 2:29); “Now I am spiritually ready to die.”

Simeon’s Lesson on Preparedness. As holy as Simeon was, something held him back.  He may have feared death, or had an element of doubt or an unreconciled sin.  He may have been clinging to something that he was unwilling to release.  The moment everything changed was the moment he completely embraced Jesus.  It is the same for us.  Every person has their unique set of obstacles that hinder spiritual readiness for death.  The day that a person completely embraces Jesus is the day a person is ready to be dismissed

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun