Prayer as vocation
Some people find it hard to pray. Others see it as a tiring task, a mandatory and muscular endeavor, to gain God’s blessings. For Anna, however prayer is a joy, and continually deepens her relationship with the One whom she loves above all others. She also knows what many don’t — that prayer involves all the senses and one’s whole self. She fasts. She walks the temple grounds. She rejoices. She gives thanks. She is centered, yet continually on high alert. Prayer is her vocation, or as author and theologian Frederick Buechner, says: “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s greatest need.” Such was Anna’s great joy, and such is the world’s greatest need.
Anna as prophet
Both Anna and Simeon knew the primary reason that Jesus was at the temple that day: forty days after the birth of a male child (and eighty days for a female child), Jewish tradition called for the woman to be “purified.” And forty days (forty is always a significant number when it shows up in scripture) was also the time for a male child to be blessed and consecrated for service to the Lord.
Simeon says that God had promised him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah — the One whom God had promised to redeem Israel. He recognizes Jesus as that person, that gift from God. Anna, however, takes it a step further, and is the first person to proclaim Jesus as the Christ. Only Anna is called a prophet by Luke, and thus she becomes the first Christian prophet.
She is a transformative bridge between the old world and the new, and also stands as a key part of a trinity — Elizabeth, Mary and Anna — that surrounds Jesus in love and joy.
Anne Larner photo