Anna is a prophetess of the New Testament. But she is a prophetess in the tradition of Old Testament like Moses sister Miriam (Ex 15, 20) Deborah (Jud 4, 10) and Huldah (2 Kgs 22, 14). The name Anna means Favour or Grace.
In a brief biography Lukes Gospel gives a good picture of Anna. There was a very old prophetess, a widow named Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for only seven years and was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple; day and night she worshipped God, fasting and praying. That very same hour she arrived and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free. (Lk 2, 36-38).
Anna is introduced as a prophetess. The task of a prophet or a prophetess is to proclaim a divine message. Anna is given the privilege of knowing an event before and after and, through her God spoke to others.
Anna comes in the line of prophets and prophetess who continually heralded the coming of the Messiah from generation to generation. Prompted by the spirit of God Anna came to the Temple at the very hour when the parents of Jesus brought him to be presented to God.
Gazing at the child and his mother Anna recognized the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. Herbert Loclayer in All the Women of the Bible says, Through her long, godly life her mind had become saturated with Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the seed of the woman to bruise the serpents head. Waiting unceasingly for Christ she believed, along with Simeon, that Marys first-born Son was indeed the rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1; Micah 5, 2).
We know very little of Annas family and ancestry except that she was the daughter of Phanuel who was of the tribe of Asher. Anna was married for seven years when she became a widow. Luke says that she was eighty-four years old at the time of Jesus presentation in the temple.
During the time of her widowhood she remained at Jerusalem praying and serving in the temple. She grew gracefully old through her service in the temple. By never leaving the temple during all her widowed life she cultivated and fostered an intimate relationship with God. The Lord was her source of energy and strength. She sought his will and followed it with total commitment.
Praying, fasting and worshiping in the temple were her routine. So God blessed her with the privilege of meeting baby Jesus and her parents. Anna must have been a well known devotee among those who came regularly to worship in the temple. She sees her lifes fulfillment in the sight of Jesus and his Mother. She now sees a new role for her. She proclaims Jesus to all the people whom she meets. Luke says she spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free (Luke 2, 38). She become the first missionary of Jesus.
Anita, Anne, Annamma, Annakuty, etc are different forms of the name of Anna. Thousands and lakhs of girl children are christened Anna or different forms of the name around the world showing the popularity of the name Anna. Christian institutions like Churches, Schools, Hospitals, etc. are also named after her. There are also a number of religious congregations named after her. (Contact:
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