The St. Anna Series
5 reflections on Anna at the Purification of Mary and the 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
…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…
Anna had been in the temple night and day prior to the Holy Family’s arrival for Jesus’ presentation. Yet it sounds like she was inspired to “come up” to a certain location at the very hour that the Holy Family appeared on the scene. The Jerusalem Temple was a huge structure with many areas for prayer and interaction with others. Where was her chosen place to fast and pray, and was she simply on her way to her “regular spot?” Or, was she motivated, perhaps, to move that day to another location, consequently encountering the Messiah who had just arrived?
Because we know so little of Anna and weren’t there, we will never know exactly how this encounter happened. Perhaps she was heading to her usual place of worship at the exact time that the Holy Family arrived. If this is the case, then clearly she was following the leading of the Holy Spirit to persevere in worship, prayer and fasting, and she encountered the Messiah at the very time and place of her regular routine.
It could be, however, that Anna was prompted to make a move away from her normal routine at just the right time so that she would see Christ. I have to believe that Anna’s dedication to her spiritual habits made her attentive to the Spirit’s promptings and that she followed His lead when nudged. Regardless of how this moment happened, Anna was a woman inspired by the Holy Spirit who acted on those inspirations and was greatly blessed because of her attentiveness.
Discerning the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not easy. Whole graduate-level courses revolve around the topic. Saints have spent years dedicated to learning how to do this in their own lives and how to help others do the same. A simple blog post cannot begin to tackle what’s needed to become adept in this type of discernment. But if we take our cue from Anna, then we know where to begin. Regular worship, prayer, and fasting can predispose us to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and in our spheres of influence. These habits, coupled with immersing ourselves in God’s Word, help us listen to and act on the voice and movement of the Holy Spirit. With Anna as our example, we see that spiritual discipline – practiced regularly – often will lead to an unexpected, beautiful encounter with the Lord.
St. Anna, who responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!
Picture: St. Anna the Prophetess by Rembrandt Van Rijn.