I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have conquered the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
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 worshipped 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.
Forty days after his birth, when Jesus was ritually presented in the Temple (along with the prescribed sacrifice), his future was foretold by an eighty-four year old woman, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel. We learn that she was serving God night and day, with fasting and prayer. She was also something of a preacher because she spoke of the child Jesus to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. We are not told how old Simeon was, but it is likely that he was of a similar age. He had been waiting a long time to see the Christ, and having seen him he now felt ready to depart this life in peace. He was a regular visitor to the Temple, a man of prayer guided by the Holy Spirit. People of faith recognized the significance of the child that was brought into the temple by the young couple Mary and Joseph.
It was a happy meeting of youth and old age. A young couple with a child enter the Temple of God and there they meet a much older man and woman. This meeting turned out to be a source of blessing for both generations. Youth was graced by age, and age was graced by youth. The promise of youth can be inspiring to older people. The experience and wisdom of age can serve as a source of stability for the young. The generations need to stay into contact with each other, because each has something to offer to the other. The generation in the middle, those in their middle years, are often best placed to bring these two generations together.
No matter what generation we belong to, our calling as followers of the Lord is to bless and grace others by our presence. All of the people who met in the Temple that day reading were the better for that meeting — Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna and even the child Jesus himself.. It might prompt any one of us to ask two questions, “Are others the better for having met us? And do we want them to be?”
The widow Anna in today’s gospel is one of those lovely characters who feature in the opening two chapters of Luke. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and of course Mary and Joseph are other such examples of people of faith in God. What distinguishes Anna from the others is her age, eighty four years old, and the fact that she never left the Temple, but stayed on there, serving God night and day with prayer and fasting. When we think of ways of serving God, we tend to think of various forms of activity that we could engage in. Anna was a woman who served God by staying put in the Temple, praying and fasting. You could say that she lived a contemplative life. Yet her life of prayer and fasting in the Temple led to her being a powerful witness of God’s activity to others.
The gospel tells us that when Mary and Joseph came to the Temple to present the child, Anna began to praise God and then spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. Anna’s prayer and fasting made her a powerful witness to what God was doing. She reminds us that there are many ways of serving God, and one of the most important ways is by our prayer. To pray is to serve God; it is to give ourselves over to God. Such service of God will empower us, as it empowered Anna, to be witnesses to God’s presence and activity to all who are still longing for God’s coming.