For the Sixth Day of Christmas
“Anna” is the Hebrew word for “grace” or “favor.”
This is the only time we meet the prophetess Anna in the entire Gospel.
Nonetheless, the Gospel bothers to tell us more about the personal history of Anna than about the personal histories of the apostles.
The Gospel tells us the names of her father and her tribe.
It tells us Anna married at what the Biblical language calls “the beginning of her virginity,” what we today would call the onset of puberty.
After seven years, her husband died.
She never remarried, and is now eighty-four years old.
Night and day she has always been at the Temple, praying, worshipping and fasting.
Perhaps the most important detail the Gospel gives is that Anna is a prophetess.
Who she is, what she does and says are all a message from God.
Anna shows up at the very hour when Joseph and Mary insert Jesus into the freedom of Israel by buying his life from God at the price of two birds.
Anna is there to welcome the Son of God into the human race and into the history of Israel.
So, the Gospel says, “coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God.”
Then, fulfilling her calling as a prophetess, Anna begins to speak for God.
She tells everyone who is looking for redemption and freedom to look to this holy Child.
This wondrous Child, who is the eternal Son of the Most High, now receives human freedom as well.
What does Christ do with his human freedom?
What are we to do with our human freedom?
Today the Gospel answers both questions.
The child grew and became strong,
filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
That is why Anna gave thanks to God today.
That is why Anna spent nearly all of her eighty-four years in the Temple, day and night, worshipping, praying, fasting.
Anna, too, was a free child of God’s holy people.
In her freedom, her worship, her prayer and self-sacrifice, Anna also grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon her.
Remember that “Anna” means “grace” or “favor.”
In baptism, in all the sacraments, in the Eucharist, God makes us his free sons and daughters by taking us into the freedom— both human and divine— of his eternal Son.
We— if we use this freedom— we shall grow and become strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God shall be upon us.
At this very hour, together with Anna, we contemplate the Child presented by Mary and Joseph.
Let us join Anna in giving thanks to God.
Let us join Anna in speaking of Christ to all who look for redemption and freedom.