Throughout the Gospels, we encounter figures who are largely hidden, taking center stage for the briefest moments before returning to the shadows. Their reward, you see, was not an earthly one … any more than ours is. And yet, there is much we can learn from them if we only have “ears to hear.”
And so, on this the last weekend of the year, I introduce you to one of the EMs of the Gospel: Anna the Prophetess. From this weekend’s readings, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke:
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
According to tradition (as recorded in the “Protoevangelium of James” par 7), Joachim and Anne (called “Anna” in this account) took their precious daughter Mary to the Temple at the tender age of three. There she remained, learning to serve God with purity of heart until she was twelve, when her protector Joseph was selected.
In today’s Gospel, we read of Anna — a widow who remained in the Temple after being widowed as a young bride. When she saw Mary enter with her Son and husband, Anna was irresistibly drawn to the Holy Family. Was it simply the guidance of the Holy Spirit … Or was it something else?
Could it be that, as a young widow, Anna had tended to young Mary in the Temple, as her own spiritual daughter? Did she teach her to pray, and guide the delicate Rose of Sharon to attain full bloom? Was she for Mary … an extraordinary mother? And was it this attachment … that caused Anna to see with the eyes of faith the special calling God had given not only this beautiful young woman, but her Son as well?