There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.
At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today is the Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas. We are still “celebrating the most sacred day” of Christmas as proclaimed in the Roman Canon and we continue for eight full days to sing the joyful angelic hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest!” The angels could not contain their joy as they shared their message with the shepherds, “Behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people!” Tell everybody!
Last month my sister and her husband marked their fiftieth anniversary. It was such an important milestone that they spread their celebration over a week—eight days—throwing an intimate dinner the first and eighth days to share their joy and include as many of their family and close friends as possible. Their aim was to tell everybody how happy they are. I told Judy that was a great way to celebrate because it reminded me of how the church celebrates her biggest jubilees—the Nativity and Easter—with an octave. Tell everybody your great joy!
Today’s Gospel offers us three possible moments for meditation on Jesus’ infancy and early childhood: the moment with Anna in the Temple; the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth in Galilee; and how Jesus grew up, “and the favor of God was upon him,” in Nazareth. The hidden life of Jesus gives ample opportunity for prayerful imagination.
Here I prefer to focus on the aged widow and prophetess Anna’s encounter with the baby and his parents after Simeon’s dramatic prophecy and canticle. “… Coming forward at that very time Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem,” that is, that Jerusalem be set free. Anna feels she must give thanks and tell everybody about the child, her joy was so great. Tell everybody!
By the way, if some of the proper names in this text put you off, I would like to play with them a bit, since Luke is clearly aware of the Hebrew meaning of the names he chooses. Anna means “Grace;” Phanuel means “the Face of God;” and the tribe Asher means “Happy!” Surely Anna was graced, favored and happy to look upon the face of God (like Jacob/Israel) and live! She could not help but tell everybody!
—Fr. Dennis Glasgow, S.J. is a Jesuit on health sabbatical, a new member of the Jesuit community at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, MI. He previously spent twelve years as associate pastor at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.
Lord, is it possible “that the favor of God” is upon me, upon those I love so dearly, and even upon those who have brought deep hurt to me? Regardless of my circumstance, regardless of the haunting fear that might strike at my soul or at souls of those I love, I will embrace your promise that your favor is upon us. You are near; you are my rescue and my foundation. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team