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
…Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher…
Of the few details that we know about Anna, we know her father’s name and tribe. In other words, we have a clue about her family. The tribe of Asher was named for Jacob’s eighth son, born to Leah’s handmaid Zilpah. Asher’s tribe - or family of descendants - was one of the original 12 tribes of Israel. In the Old Testament, this tribe was considered prosperous in the blessings of Jacob but not particularly significant in terms of the Israelite nation’s history.
What about your family? Do you come from a family that has experienced blessings? Has your family been significant or seemingly insignificant to your country, your state, your city, or your own life?
This last question has prompted me to wonder about Anna and her tribe. She was probably widowed for over 60 years according to Luke’s description of her situation. Was her family there for her when she lost her husband at such a young age? Why did she not depart the temple night and day? Did she have anywhere to go, anyone to take her in, anyone to offer her support? Anna’s ancestors were considered famous in that they belonged to one of the original large family units in Israel. People knew her father’s name. But we are left to speculate on her family dynamics and what role her family played in her young life and her long years of widowhood. I have been widowed for about a decade now. I wish I knew more about Anna.
Our own tribes often bring blessing, suffering, or some combination of both to our lives. I’m guessing that Anna’s family dynamics and the events in her life fashioned her into an
independent, determined, faithful woman based on where she found herself at age 84.
Somehow she knew that despite all that happened to her over the course of her life, both good and bad, she had an ultimate home and purpose with the Lord and His tribe.
St. Anna, daughter of God, of the tribe of the Redeemed, pray for us!
Picture: Rembrandt, “The Prophetess Anna”, 1639 (photo: Public Domain)