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Anna of Asher
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Anna of Asher
Anna of Asher
Celebrating the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:22-40)
Night and day, praying and watching,
our elder, Anna, had waited long
All her life, praying and watching
Anna of Asher is praising God, is praising God
Have you heard? Anna is singing:
We who have waited, get ready now
Come and see, all who are longing
We who have waited, our time has come. Our time has come
Dare to hope Come, faithful women
Lift up your voice for Jerusalem
From this day, joy is returning
We never will be the same again, the same again
Come today, mamas and grandmas,
Anna invites you to Mary's side
Bring your love Bless the new mother
Sing in the circle of our new life, of our new life
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There was also a prophet Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel
of the tribe of Asher.
She was of a great age,
having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
then as a widow to the age of eighty-four.
She never left the temple
but worshiped there
with fasting and prayer night and day.
At that moment,
she came and began to praise God
and to speak about the child
to all who were looking
for the redemption of Jerusalem.
A midrash imagining
The midrash tradition
is an imaginative way of
deepening into a scripture story.
With reverence to the original narrative in Luke 2:22-40,
we might ask questions of the text,
wondering about details of that scene,
these beloved characters.
What follows is midrash-- a story inspired by wonder, grounded in the scriptural tradition. None of what follows is part of the Biblical canon, but a fresh possibility.
pic by antevasin nguyen, Upsplash
pic by fateme shahabi, Upsplash.
The gospel of Luke tells the story of Anna praising God and talking to people about Jesus, but so much more happened that day.
In the temple, Anna the Prophetess from the tribe of Asher not only recognized the baby Jesus as "the redemption of Jerusalem," she also recognized Mary. On that day, Anna introduced her to a circle of remarkable women who would journey with Mary all her life.
These women of Jerusalem became Jesus' "aunties"-- babysitting, teaching Mary swaddling, lullabies and mother-prayers, encouraging her in breastfeeding, and taking turns staying overnight when Jesus was sick.
These faithful people-- some wise elders, some new to the journey of motherhood themselves-- not only devoted themselves to companioning Mary, they prayed tirelessly for Jesus as he grew, investing their lives in him.
pic by loren joseph, Upsplash.
When Anna held Jesus in the temple that day, she was overjoyed. With tears in her eyes, her prayerful giggles delighted Mary and Joseph. After all, Anna was renowned for her wisdom, patience and dedication to a life of prayer and service. It was a great honor to receive Anna's blessing and watch her hold him up in the air for everyone in the temple court to see.
As baby Jesus squealed with delight, Anna danced a slow circle with him, singing in her lovely old voice,
Dare to hope!
Joy is returning!
All who are longing, get ready now!
From this day
Life will be different
We who have waited, our time has come!
pic by cristian newman, Upsplash.
Still holding Jesus, Anna gently touched Mary's face and said with grandmotherly care,
"It is time for you to join the circle of women who have birthed and raised up our great leaders:
Women like Jochebed, mother of Moses, who, with Pharaoh's daughter and her nurse, nurtured him.
Like Nitzevet, mother of King David;
Blessed Rebekah, mother of Jacob;
Hannah, my namesake, mother of Samuel;
Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah who raised
the fathers of the twelve tribes."
pic by a k, Upsplash.
When the prophetess finished speaking, a younger woman came and stood beside her. This was Jessica, Mary's good friend since childhood.
With a twinkling wink to Mary, Anna passed the baby to Jessica who cradled him in her arms. She blessed tiny Jesus and then looked into Mary's face.
Leaning in to kiss the new mother in blessing, Jessica whispered something to Mary that no one else could hear.
The two friends looked at each other.
pic by joel muniz, Upsplash.
Jessica then turned and handed Jesus off to a woman named Aliza (which means joy) who had come to stand near.
pic by eye for ebony, Upsplash.
Mary was then astounded to see a long line of women standing there-- some mothers and grandmothers, some without children.
Amid deep smiles and hugs of friendship, a circle formed. One by one, each person came near to bless her.
In this way, the women of Jerusalem ushered Mary from maidenhood to motherhood, celebrating a special, new dimension of her life.
The women's singing echoed in the temple with joy and solemn hope.
A curious crowd of men gathered outside, wondering what was going on.
pic by joel muniz, Upsplash.
Forty of Jerusalem's women held Jesus and kissed Mary, including her best friends Yaffa, Sharona, Nurit, and her dear cousin Elizabeth.
That day, Mary's fears were comforted,
her courage buoyed
and her faith in God's promise grounded.
pic by omar lopez, Upsplash.
Anna of the tribe of Asher, renowned for her wisdom,
resumed her station in the temple, fasting and praying night and day, attuned to the love of the Living One.
pic by paolo bendandi, Upsplash.
But the women Anna called around Mary met regularly to share good food, music and stories.
Year after year, they celebrated one another's successes, wept together for each other's losses, cooked, ate, danced, talked, listened, and laughed uproariously together.
Each of them was transformed by the presence of this new church. Their devotion to one another became a powerful and mysterious presence in Jerusalem.
Many years later, many of these women joined Mary at the foot of the cross, ever in prayer for Jesus, ever supporting Mary.
We thank God for Anna, and all our wise and beloved women elders.
pic by junior reis, Upsplash.