The Promise of the Messiah
In Luke’s second chapter we meet two old ones who had lived their long lives believing in the promise of the Messiah, Simeon and Anna. Simeon ʺwas righteous and devoutʺ and in this scene we see him enter the Temple filled with the Holy Spirit. He had been told by the spirit that he ʺshould not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.ʺ When Joseph and Mary entered the Temple ʺto perform the custom of the law in regard to himʺ Simeon took the babe into his arms and said, ʺNow, Master, you may let your servant go in grace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.ʺ (Luke 2:29-32)
Anna, whose name means ʺgraceʺ and ʺfavorʺ, was a prophetess. She never left the Temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. She came out from the sanctuary at the moment when Jesus was presented in the Temple for his circumcision. She saw the child and knew, in an instant, that this child was the One. Here before her, in the innocence of a new born babe, was the Messiah that had been prophesied by all the ancient prophets, for hundreds of years. Anna, in her old age, had lived long enough to witness this moment and her joy was overwhelming. What a gift! To have lived her whole life in service of the Lord, hoping for the coming of the Messiah, and there he was, before her very eyes! For Luke, she was an icon for the faithful Jew, the remnant (Zeph. 3:12) who awaits the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of Israel’s covenant of compassion and justice with God.
Anna, the graced one of God, possesses the wisdom of God, which enables her to recognize the presence of God in the moment. She had modeled this wisdom throughout her long life of Temple service, and she expressed it with simple joy. She had remained hopeful all of her life and now she had been present at the moment when the hope of Israel, in the form of this infant, Jesus, came into the Temple. What inexpressible joy!
Each of us are called by God to be like Simeon and Anna in our own times, in the immediacy of our daily lives today. We are called to be faithful and generous with our love, and to bring a little light into our daily worlds through the wisdom of our faith in Jesus Christ. We are called to give ourselves over to prayer and fasting in service of the Lord, just as Anna had done. For it was through her life-long commitment to live in hope of the Messiah that she became strong in faith.
We know that the Messiah has come. We know what he has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. This is the Gospel of love that the world needs to hear in and through our lives of faith. God’s generosity is limitless. If we give ourselves over to his love and his promise, he will make of each of us an Anna for our times. This is a grace and a favor worthy of those who believe. But it is a grace and a favor for those who have not yet come to know the Messiah too. For these may find Jesus, the Messiah, through our own joyous and faithful lives. This is the meaning of the Incarnation today. Amen!