And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age…
Our text presents us with the picture of a lonely woman, old, and a widow. Could a less attractive subject be chosen? There is something interesting in a young widow; but who cares to look at an old one, whose charms have long since faded, whose eyes are dim, whose hair is white, whose face is wrinkled, and whose hands are tremulous? But there is a beauty that does not depend upon youth, a loveliness that wears well, and cannot be washed out even by tears, a charm that comes in answer to the prayer, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," Of this beauty Anna, the prophetess, had a full share; and the story of her life, briefly as it is told, is not devoid of interest. Anna, "the gracious," as her name signifies, was the daughter of Phanuel, evidently a man who lived as one who saw the face of God. While still very young the maiden was wedded, and for seven happy years youth and love filled her heart with gladness. But at the end of that time the shadow of death passed over the Jewish home and hid the light, and stilled the song, and filled the house with mourning. What was she to do, that young widow with her life before her? She had surely some excuse for joining that innumerable company of disappointed women who talk of blighted lives, and are themselves a blight upon everything that Comes near them. But she let "the useful trouble" of her life soften and sanctify her. She put her trust in the God of Israel, and received with meekness the chastening of His hand. She took herself and her sorrow to the Temple. And there a new longing and a new love took possession of her;. for were they not all looking for the Messiah, and might not the time of His coming be near? She would consecrate herself to God and to His service in the Temple. Other women could not do it; the sweet clamour of the children, and the wishes of their husbands kept them at home; but she would have her pleasures too, and the joy of the Lord should be her strength. And so the young widow took her place, and day by day, and year by year, returned to it. The sun touched Olivet with golden beams and left it again in shadow more times than she could count. The fig trees blossomed and shed their fruit, the valleys drank up the early and the latter rain, the tender grapes became ripe and were gathered, the corn showed first the green blade, and then the full ears; the feasts came round with their joyous assemblings; and, year after year, Anna was in the Temple, neither wretched nor useless. God gave to her the gift of prophecy. She saw what some eyes could not see, and she had power to utter the Divine revelations which were made to her. Complacently and tranquilly she saw the years pass away until eighty-four had seamed her face, and bent her form. But He whom she had served with such fidelity and devotion had a wonderful joy in reserve for her yet. Coming into the Temple one day, as usual, she heard an unusual sound. Simeon, with tremulous voice, was singing that new song, which has been continued by the Church ever since. In his arms he held the Child Jesus; and, seeing Him, what could Anna do but take up the strain of thanksgiving, and pour out her soul in praise? And then she found that, after all, her work was not over. She had known what it was to wait long, and others were waiting still. She could not keep the good news to herself. She became the first evangelist of His advent in the city of her King, and "spake of Him to all them," &e. We are taught at least three things by the brief biography which Luke has written of Anna.
1. What is the best cure for loneliness? — Something to do, and the determination to do it.
2. What is woman's work in the Church, and who are the women to do it? More and more every year it is coming to be understood that there are departments which women can excellently fill. There are thousands of devoted women scattered about in different parts of our country who, in quiet places, and by womanly methods, are doing an immense amount of good. More Annas to spend their days in God's Temple, and speak a kindly word to those who are in darkness: women who have a ready hand to take up any duty which would not otherwise be done — these are the women that are needed. But it is lonely women especially who are called to Christ's work.
3. God will most richly reward the services of the faithful. No one knows exactly what the reward will be, for He delights to give us surprises of joy.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;