THE PROPHETESS ANNA
Anna, the daughter of Phanuel was the prophetess who was in the temple on the day that Mary and Joseph brought in the infant Jesus to present him to the Lord. This was on the same occasion that Simeon took Jesus in his arms and pronounced a prophecy concerning the newly born Messiah.
The widow Anna had been a widow for very many years.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Married only seven years to her husband before he died, and now being eighty-four years old, she had probably lived as a widow for some sixty years or more. As far as we can tell, all of these years as a widow were spent living in the temple.
Of course we would only be guessing if we tried to reconstruct what she must first have been thinking as a young widow – no doubt still in her twenties. However, I do not think that I would be mistaken to say that most young women, widowed at this age, would again be thinking of marriage instead of facing a life time alone. Also as far as we know, Anna did not even have any living children and perhaps never did have children.
Whatever were her thoughts in those early years, the result of them was that she decided to dedicate herself to three things: serving, praying and fasting. These are not activities that are self-gratifying. Rather, they are activities that requires one to give of oneself. These are activities that require that a conscious decision must be made to forego any pleasures that someone might otherwise find in this life, and instead live a life solely for the benefit of others.
But this is not to say that Anna in no way received benefit. She was one of only two people that we know of in the temple that day that recognized the little baby that Mary carried in her arms as being the long-awaited Messiah.
It may have been true that Anna first realized that the baby was the Messiah when Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms and proclaimed the prophecy concerning him, but even if this was the case, she heard and believed. Not only did she believe, but she also told everyone that she knew who was, like she, “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
This was Anna’s earthly reward. This was the benefit that she gained by choosing to live a self-sacrificing life, rather than a self-centered life. She beheld and recognized the Christ child, and then proclaimed him to all who would hear.