As I was doing research on the readings appointed for 2 Feburary I was struck by the role Anna, daughter of Phanuel plays in the presentation. She is the first woman, outside of Mary’s family, to see Jesus in his role as redeemer.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition Anna and Simeon are considered to be the last of the Old Testament prophets. But while Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and speaks to Mary and Joseph, Anna “began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38)
In a sense, she is the first evangelist.
She straddles a turning point in history. Like may of her people she has lived her life in anticipation of the arrival of a messiah. Along with Simeon she realizes that the redeemer has come into her life. Unlike Simeon she was not promised that she would live to see this day.
So here we have two elders of the faith, Simeon the righteous and devout and Anna the ever-faithful coming together to welcome the baby Jesus and his parents. Simeon, expressing a private joy and a dire prediction, and Anna calling out to all who would hear about this child and the redemption of Jerusalem.
I wonder Anna’s vision for Jesus was. Did she see him as a potential ‘modern-day’ David? Or was she, as someone who fasted and prayed everyday, aware of the potential Jesus had to become the Redeemer to all people. A messiah whose message would reach out beyond the confines of his original family, temple, and religion. A god-made-flesh whose followers would spread across the globe and carry with them the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup that would become the central feast and ritual of the new Christian faith?
She saw his potential, that is all we know.
Bible quotes are from the NRSV on Bible Gateway
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
Rembrandt [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons