All alone - was she or wasn't she?
Anna Prophetissa by Carel de Mallery, Antwerp, 1566-1628, Webcopy courtesy of straightwoodgalleries.com - DeVos - NT women
Anna, the prophetess,(die Prophetin - German) was "all alone". When she was widowed, she needed a purpose in life and contact with others. Most profound human relationships (spouse and family) were "missing" to her.
She had been married in Jerusalem for only 7 years many years before. (Sieben Jahre war sie verheiratet gewesen. - German) Her husband's name was not mentioned in Luke 2:36-38. But her father's was. Her family was an important one in the tribe of Asher. That means that she had to have moved to Jerusalem upon marriage and that she had to have made new friends there.
When she was widowed young and "alone", she did not return to her parent's household. Was there no one she cared about to return to? Was there something she needed to continue doing in Jerusalem?
At age 84 (vierundachtzig - German), "she never left the temple". (Sie verlie▀ den Tempel nicht mehr. - German) Imagine that!
You couldn't sleep in the temple of course, but she could have had quarters in the priestly area , that is, if she had been married to an important priest. Upon death, he would have left his things and particularly his precious library to his wife. Or perhaps she stayed in the area reserved for holy women, either living in her own quarters or living in community with other women.
Anna, daughter of Phanuel, was an educated woman. She knew about the prophecies regarding the Messiah. She worshiped and read in the Torah, the Books of History, the Commentaries, the Books of the Prophets, the Psalms....
She prayed. She praised God.
Anna found her purpose 'for years and years' right where she was. She interacted with people daily in the temple and knew the various factions of believers, including those who 'were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.'
Anna had to eat. She was either independently wealthy and/or she earned money with what she had in her home.
When she saw baby Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, she immediately discerned that the child before her would set Jerusalem free. Another also recognized him immediately. Simeon, the prophet. (Luke 2:25-35) After seeing the baby, he was satisfied with his life and he expected to "go in peace" soon. Nothing like this was said about Anna, however. That must mean, that she lived to a very advanced age.
A question comes up....Whose 'mentor' was she?
The reasoning goes as follows....
It starts with a question from another story.
"Where, oh where did 12-year-old Jesus stay, when he was teaching the teachers in the Temple? Was he homeless?
Why would he have been? Jesus and his parents stayed somewhere each passover and they visited friends...
They may be nameless to us, or some of them may be mentioned in the Bible.
What people mentioned would have known Jesus at age 12. Mary's cousin Elizabeth...the young John the Baptist...the teachers in the temple...the overseer in Herod's household...(Do you know others?)
Surely a 96-year-old doting Anna, a born teacher, would keep track of him, would know when he might be expected in town, would visit with him and give him shelter, if she could, wouldn't you say? Expectations would even say the Holy Family would drop in to see if they could help their 96-year-old friend in small and great matters.
Otherwise, why, oh why would her age be so important in the three verses about Anna?
And why, oh why would the story lead into the story of the adolescent Jesus in the temple 3 verses later.
Anna was a prophetess and the 'chances' are good that she was a mentor to Jesus himself.
Jesus, as a human needed to grow both in body and wisdom, gaining favor with God and men. (compare - Luke 2: 52)
Where did he get the wisdom to debate with the teachers?
When Jesus read the holy texts and commentaries the thoughts in them were confirmed by his godly side.
Wouldn't you agree that Anna would have given Jesus texts to take home each year? The magi had brought their best gifts. She would give her best gifts and she had spiritual gifts to give. Jesus learned to read. He learned to understand. Wouldn't she have given him more texts to ponder when his parents insisted that he come home with them?
So what did Anna do to overcome the loneliness of widowhood away from family?
She took inventory of her talents, secured a safe home, secured food. She made decisions. She chose to live by herself or with other holy women. She went to where the action was...inside the Temple, and made herself known and available.
Anna had daily human contact. She mentored. She "spoke to all" about what she felt led to say as a prophetess of God.
(Sie sprach zu allen. - German, Luke 2:38)
She had daily divine contact. She worshipped, prayed and fasted. She did not lack "profound" relationships. She fulfilled the plan God had for her on earth. When did she accomplish that?
After she knew she had passed on her special prophetic knowledge that can be passed on to key heirs. That may have required a written will or statements in front of sufficient witnesses regarding her husband's and her treasures, such as Scripture scrolls and Scriptural comments and the places of their storage! She must have also arranged ahead of time to what would happen to the physical spaces of where she lived. She did fulfill God's plan for her after all.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for all lonely people and those who truly find themselves alone. Help them not feel lonely or to be alone. Thanks for mentors that we have had. Thank you for mentors in our communities. Help us be mentors in our turn. Help us to pass on spiritual inheritances worth having to key people.
Lord, make people be courageous to "Get up, pick up their mats (look after themselves) and GO" daily. Help us be truly fulfilled.
Lord Jesus, help us grow in wisdom, gaining favour with the Father and YOU. Thank you for your example. Amen