The St. Anna Series
5 Reflections on Anna at the Purification of Mary and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as recounted in St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 2: 22-38.
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2: 36-38
…She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day….
It’s easy to gloss over the figure of Anna in Luke’s gospel. After all, only 3 verses are dedicated to her in the entire canon of Sacred Scripture. Yet, what we do learn about her in this story of the holy family coming to the temple for Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation is significant.
Apparently, Anna was settled into a routine of worship, prayer, and fasting in the house of the Lord from which she did not depart. What was fueling this dedication, routine, and singular focus? How was she persevering, at the advanced age of 84, on minimal food and social contact? In her role as prophetess, was she anticipating the arrival of the long-promised Messiah with an inkling and hope that He might appear there in the Temple?
When I consider my own dedication to fasting, prayer, and worship I can get discouraged. I find it difficult to fast and pray 2 days a year, much less night and day on a regular basis. My dedication to regular worship, outside of Sundays, waxes, and wanes depending on what is going on in my work life and in the life of my family. It is tempting to think about Anna’s perseverance in this way: Anna was older, probably didn’t have children to support, and she was widowed with lots of “free time.’’ Anna did not have technology, emails, and social media to manage. Anna did not have coronavirus and social distancing holding her back from going where she pleased and doing what she wanted. Right?
In reality, Anna’s life probably was much harder and more distracting than mine. Yet, she persevered in maintaining a dedicated relationship with God day in and day out as she awaited the promised Messiah, whose arrival wasn’t promised during her lifetime. This is the kind of perseverance worthy of admiration and emulation.
St. Anna, who persevered night and day in dedication to God, pray for us!
Picture: St. Anna the Prophetess in stained glass from South Elkhorn Christian Church