Have you noticed as the years pass that you identify with different persons in the Gospel than you may have connected with in earlier years? This year, as we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, along with World Day of Consecrated Life (February 2), I find myself feeling surprisingly close to Anna, the woman who, having remained a widow since her youth, "never left the Temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer" (2:37). She was a woman consecrated to God and, in the light of God's Spirit, especially capable of grasping God's plan and interpreting God's commands. In one of those midlife “yesses” coming upon me with ever greater frequency, I found myself, in the spirit of Anna, letting go once more of dreams of younger years and embracing my own “years in the Temple.”
This old widow, on that very busy nothing-out-of-the-ordinary day, encountered the Lord in the Temple, held in the arms of his Mother, led by Joseph, as they carried two turtledoves, the offering of the poor.
Four adults encountered one another around Jesus in the Temple that morning: Mary and Joseph, the wise prophetess Anna, and the faithful old Simeon who “took the baby into his arms and blessed God" (Lk 2:27-28). Four hearts with the capacity to notice what God was doing that day, hearts that could hear with clarity the whisper of the eternal.
The coming of the Lord to the Temple was the divinely appointed moment. Ordinary time (“chronos”) was suddenly transformed into “the moment from God.” It was a “kairos” moment that has transformed time and history until the end of the world. You and I live in this same kairos, the “appointed time and hour” of our history.
The wise old prophetess Anna, a woman consecrated to God, was especially capable of grasping God's plan and interpreting God's commands. I invite you, in the spirit of Anna, to fulfill your own prophetic vocation in the world today.
Experience God’s delight in you. Rejoice in the fidelity of the Lord you have witnessed in the years of your life. Have the courage to tell those younger than you searching for the Light of Life and the Fountain of Truth that he is here, that he will not disappoint, that even if we must wait long years to personally witness the Lord “coming to his Temple,” the wait of enduring belief is in itself the key to a peaceful conviction that God will be—and is already—victorious.
Anna had the courage, when she saw the Babe born in Bethlehem, to witness to him, the Lord of the ages. Suddenly everything in the Temple, the meaning of her life, even the political context of her people shone with the radiance of Jesus, finding a new center, renewed meaning, and an infinite hope.
Fr. Thomas Rosica offers a challenge as he reflects on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord:
“How often are we dead certain of the idea that we have formed of the world, of the Church, of the consecrated life, and no longer let ourselves be involved in the curiosity and intimacy of an adventure with God who wants to meet us and draw us closer to Him? How frequently do we place our confidence in ourselves rather than in the Child of Bethlehem, and we do not think it possible that God could be so great as to make himself small so as to come really close to us? How could it be that God’s glory and power are revealed in a helpless Baby?”
It’s too easy for us to remain in our pre-formed opinions and assumptions, judging events and people from the narrow vantage point of what is good for us, or believing the best is what aligns with what we’ve always done. Anna was not this kind of person. When the Lord passed by, she knew that the Lord had come. In the spirit of this wise prophetess, I plead with you to seek to see, to commit yourself to truly hear, to touch with your own hands the way everything is transformed under the influence of light.
Because everyone longs to meet an Anna who will set them free from the little worlds of their making, that they might burst forth in a chorus of praise and joy with the realization that God is here!
I pray that you and I will be the sight, the prophet, the wisdom, the Anna someone in this world will find, to at last receive the happiness that will free their soul for song.
by Sr Kathryn Hermes, FSP