St. Anna, the prophetess

January 25, 2019

The Pastor's Page

St. Anna

Anna, the prophetess, an exceptionally holy woman, was present with Simeon the priest when Mary and Joseph presented their child Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:22-38). Throughout the world February 3 is the memorial of St. Blasé, but in the Holy Land, February 3, the day after the Presentation, is the dual commemoration of Saints Simeon and Anna. Saint Luke mentions a number of praiseworthy spiritual characteristics of this remarkable woman.

Seven years married. In this case, the number seven is not to be taken literally, but metaphorically. Seven represents perfection. When Anna was married, she was the perfect wife, completely faithful to her husband, loving, generous, and kind.

Age 84. Anna was advanced in years. Biblically, a long life is regarded as a reward from God for living a good and holy life. Sarah lived to be 127 (Gn 23:1), and Judith, who also was a longtime widow after the death of her husband Manasseh, lived to be 105 (Jdt 16:23). Anna was virtuous, honest, blameless, and respectable, an outstanding example of righteousness.

A widow. Throughout Scripture, the widow, along with the orphan and stranger, are considered to be weak and powerless, but not in this instance. Anna was strong spiritually. When she was married, her focus was divided between her love for her husband and her children and her love for God. Freed of the responsibilities of marriage and family, her sole focus was upon God, her first love, and freed of household duties, she was available for prayer and service. In ancient times and today, women have a longer life expectancy than men, and over the final portion of their lives are in a position to accept a variety of church ministries such as visiting the sick, serving meals, teaching religion, and caring for the disadvantaged.

She never left the temple. After the death of her husband, Anna could have stayed home, depressed and withdrawn, but after a period of grief and mourning, she decided to re-engage, to get up and get going, and instead of remaining in her home she went to God’s house. By doing so, she imitated her namesake, Hannah, who also spent long hours in the temple fervently praying to God (1 Sm 1:9-16; 2:1-10). Anna went to church every day, and her example is an inspiration to older women to go to church not only on Sundays but also on weekdays.

Fasting and prayer. Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert, and he prayed in synagogues and the Temple, as well as along the seashore, on mountainsides, and in gardens. Anna did what Jesus would do. Fasting and prayer were spiritual practices that Jesus and Anna had in common, and her example is an invitation for believers to do likewise.

She gave thanks to God. Many losses are associated with the aging process, the death of family and friends, as well as diminished health, strength, energy, and mobility, all which can lead to discouragement and a sour attitude. Anna was not mired in self-pity. She was able to see and count her blessings, was cheerful and upbeat, and had an attitude of gratitude.

A prophetess who spoke about the child. A prophetess speaks about God, and there are several examples in the Hebrew Scriptures, Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Jgs 4:4), and Huldah (2 Kgs 22:14; 2 Chr 34:22), who offered prayers, led the people, and spoke on God’s behalf. Anna was an early evangelizer and is a shining example of how to speak about Jesus to others.

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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.

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