Tag Archives: Simeon

St. Anna, the prophetess

January 25, 2019

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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 After the death of her husband, Anna could have stayed home, depressed and withdrawn, but after a period of grief and mourning, she decided to re-engage, to get up and get going, and instead of remaining in her home she went to God’s house.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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Simeon and Anna: The last pair of the infancy story

December 29, 2010

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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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