|The Holy Prophetess Anna (Feast day - February 3 and August 28)|
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
The Prophetess Anna was an important figure of the Old Testament. She was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher and she was made worthy of the highest honor to see the Son and Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, incarnate. The Prophets of the Old Testament saw God the Word without flesh, since all the appearances of God in the Old Testament were of the fleshless Word, and they prophesied His incarnation and awaited Him.
The Prophetess Anna was made worthy to see Christ when the Panagia with Joseph brought Him to the Temple, as a forty-day-old infant, according to the provisions of the Law of the Old Testament. When Symeon the Just received Christ into his arms, as it was informed to him from the Holy Spirit, namely that he would not die before he saw Christ, and said: "Now let Your servant depart in peace, Master, according to Your word...", then the Prophetess Anna began to sing and glorify God with a loud voice, and spoke of the "Child" to all who were awaiting redemption in Israel. As the sacred hymnographer says characteristically, the Prophetess Anna, full of devotion and spiritual rejoicing, sang to Christ and referred to events which would take place in His life, and she magnified the Theotokos as well. "Holy Anna, sober in spirit and venerable in years, with reverence hypophesied the Master freely and openly in the Temple; and proclaiming the Theotokos, she magnified her before all who were present" (Megalynarion).
Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, commenting on the above hymn, among other things, said the following remarkable words:
1. That "this Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, full of jubilation, prayed and sang to God loudly, and those present listened, in contrast to Anna the mother of the Prophet Samuel, who prayed in silence."
Both of these types of prayer are accepted by the Church. When we pray in private we have the ability to pray in silence, with the nous and the heart. But in assemblies of worship, namely the Sacred Services and the Divine Liturgy, the hymns and prayers are chanted and read loudly for all to hear, that all present may be involved.
2. That it is one thing to prophesy (προφητεύω) and another thing to hypophesy (υποφητεύω). To prophesy means to talk about events that will take place in the future, after a long time, while to hypophesy means to speak of events that have taken place or are taking place or for events that will take place after a short period of time.
The Prophetess Anna was made worthy to see the "salvation of God" at eighty-four years old. She was married at a young age, but she lived with her husband only seven years and after remained a widow. All the remaining years of her life, until deep old age, she devoted to the worship of God, and spent the years of her life in the Temple with prayer and fasting, "worshiping night and day".
The life and deeds of the Prophetess Anna give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:
Any ministry in the Temple of God, and the Church in general, when it is done freely and above all with love and taste, it becomes a source of inspiration, blessing and spiritual elation. Because, when a person does not feel oppressed, but does whatever they do to the glory of God, only because they want to and they love it, that is they do it with their heart, with a pleasant disposition without resentment and complaining, then they attract the Grace of God, which descends into the heart and causes sweetness, joy, peace and spiritual exaltation. Especially, when they are accustomed to praying during their ministry, then the years of their life are sanctified and they feel inner fullness and spiritual joy. With a pleasant inner disposition, even the mandatory becomes optional. When someone considers their ministry within the Church as a blessed work and not as a coercive work, then their thoughts remain pure and their soul is full of peace. Besides, it is noticed that the greater the love, the less one feels fatigued and the greater the inner peace and joy.
The Prophetess Anna continued to minister in the Temple until deep old age, without considering it a toil or tiresome, because she loved God very much. The result of her love towards God was love towards her fellow men, inner fullness and a sense of meaning in life. This should be an example to all of us, who become tired at the slightest, become resentful, feel oppressed and are tormented by thoughts of flight and abandonment from the effort and struggle. Most of us do not know, unfortunately, how to utilize the time of our lives and we waste it purposelessly, as if we could rediscover it. The years of our lives are few and measured and we must utilize them with works of love and sacrificial ministry and with prayer. Basil the Great tells us that if we lose money we can rediscover it, but "if we lose years, we are not able to find them again" and that "the time for prayer is throughout one's life".
It is indeed gratifying the fact that nowadays there are people who exist, who despite their advanced age have youthful zeal and use their free time in the best way, to volunteer themselves to the ministry of God and "neighbor". These people are graced by God for the environment where they live, and for all those who befriend them, being a spiritual oasis in the desert of today's friendless society, and they are a source of inspiration, joy and blessing.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΠΡΟΦΗΤΙΣ ΑΝΝΑ ΘΥΓΑΤΗΡ ΦΑΝΟΥΗΛ", February 2009. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.