Anna’s Story

A different view of Candlemas (Luke 2: 12-40)

Simeon’s Prophecy to Mary, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

As they often did when things were not busy in the temple, Anna, the old prophetess a daughter of the tribe of Asher, and Simeon, a priest were sitting on a blanket talking quietly in a discreet corner of the temple . Both of them were old. Anna was 84. No one knew how old Simeon was, he was not even sure himself.

Anna never left the temple precincts. She had stayed there, fasting, praying and worshipping, as she had done since the death of her husband, after just seven years of marriage.

Suddenly Simeon was silent for a few moments. When he spoke again, it was not to continue the same conversation with Anna. ‘Someone comes’ he said more to himself than Anna. She looked at him, a slightly worried expression passing across her gentle, old face. People came and went every day at the temple, and at all hours. In all the years she had kown him, she had never seen Simeon act like that before.

As Simeon turned from Anna, standing up and moving toward the door to the temple court, a couple came into view. It was a young woman carrying a baby and a man carrying a closed basket. Anna guessed the basket held a temple offering. The man was full grown, and the woman carrying carrying the child was younger, perhaps just a teenager. Anna got up slowly and painfully, to follow her friend. Simeon walked out into the temple court and hailed the visitors with a warm greeting, disappearing momentarily from Anna’s view.

As Anna made her slow progress following Simeon, she remembered something her friend had told her long ago, that God promised him he would not die before he saw The Messiah. The arrival of these visitors, and his reaction, even before they had seen them, made her wonder if this might be who he had waited patiently for, for all these years.

By the time Anna reached the arched doorway, from where she could see her friend and the couple with the baby again, Simeon was cradling the child in his arms. As she drew close enough for her failing sight to see the baby properly, she knew it was probably not more than days old, a couple of weeks at most.

Anna was not close enough to hear everything that Simeon said to the couple but from the look on their faces,  it must have ben something quite startling. As she got closer still to her old friend, Anna heard a part of what Simeon was saying, ‘This child will cause many to fall and rise in Israel, and he will be will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ Joining her old friend, she too blessed the child before Mary, Joseph and Jesus left the temple.

As Anna and Simeon made their way back into the cool shade, inside the temple, she thought she detected a lighter step and aura of contentment about the old man. They settled down again in companionable silence to rest, each lost in their own prayer of thanks.

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