"Saint Anna The Prophetess" by Rembrandt
Luke 2: 36- 38
Forty days after the birth of Jesus, and at the end of her time of purification under the Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22-23) and to offer a sacrifice to make her purification complete (Luke 2:24). While they were in the temple it was revealed by the Holy Ghost to Simeon, a man who had been promised by God he would live to see the Messiah, that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Simeon prophesied of Jesus' divine mission (Luke 2: 25-35) and told Mary that "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:35).
Facts about her:
- She was a prophetess (see the story of Huldah for more about the title of prophetess) (Luke 2:36);
- Her name means "grace" in Hebrew;
- She was a daughter of Phanuel, who was a member of the tribe of Asher. His name meant "Face of God" (Luke 2:36);
- She was very, very old;
- She was only married for seven years before her husband died and left her a widow (Luke 2:36);
- She had been a widow for 84 years at the time Jesus came to the temple (Luke 2:37);
- She "... departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37);
- She came into the temple at the exact moment when Simeon was proclaiming to Mary and Joseph that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Luke 2:38);
- When she heard this news she believed what Simeon said and gave thanks to the Lord (Luke 2:38);
- She prophesied of the babe Jesus to all "...them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).
- If she had been 14 when she got married (not an unusual age to get married at that time) she would have been widowed at 21 and then have been a widow for the next 84 years. That would have made her at least 105 years old when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple!
- Perhaps she had received a promise similar to the one Simeon received-- that she would live long enough to see the promised Savior;
- Also, like Simeon, she may have been promoted by the Holy Ghost to go the temple right when she did;
- She may have had children, she was married for seven years, but seeing as she was so old she may have outlived them all;
- We don't know how much longer she lived after the events in Luke 2, but one can speculate that she continued prophesying of Jesus to those who would listen until she died.
Eighty-four years is a long, long time to be alone. As I read the story of Anna I can't help but reflect back on what those 84 years must have been like for her. She became a widow so young, which meant that she probably would have returned to live with other members of her family. She probably never had a household of her own or many of the other social benefits and privileges that came from having a husband. Perhaps she had children, which she would have had to raise on her own and provide for. I can't help feeling that her life must have been just a bit lonely and hard. Yet despite how life treated her, she grew into a woman of immense faith and devotion. I think she must have learned very early one that by devoting herself to God He would take care of her and sustain her through her trials.
Anna impresses me because not only is she a wonderful example of hope and faith, but she exemplifies the meaning of "enduring to the end." Despite her amazing old age she continued to serve God to the best of her ability and to bear witness of the birth of the Savior. She didn't give up-- ever-- and she was dedicated to God to the very end. She inspires me, and I hope that if I ever live to be that old I will have as much spunk and devotion as she had!
What we can learn from her:
- We are never too old to serve the Lord or to bear witness of Christ;
- Being worthy to enter and serve in the Lord's temple entitles us to many blessings and privileges-- like the honor Anna had to behold the Christ child in the temple for the first time;
- Just because a woman doesn't have a husband (or children) doesn't mean that she isn't entitled to the same blessings and privileges as other men and women;
- God cares about women, especially widows;
- Elderly women can find ways to participate in the gospel work, even if it is just fasting and praying;
- God blesses those who serve him faithfully.
Questions to think about:
- Here is a fact to think about-- Every time a significant event happens in Christ's life women are present and central to the event (Mary, Elisabeth, Anna, Mary Magdalene, etc...) Why do you think this is so?
- Does Anna remind you of any old women (or men) you know who dedicate all of their time to serving in the temple?
- Would you like to live as long as Anna did? Why or why not?