Reflection for the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple - 2nd February 2024

Anna the Prophet

Since celebrating the Baptism of Jesus we have been travelling through a season of glory, hearing stories of the ways that Jesus manifested himself in his adult ministry. Is this just another itinerant preacher and healer or is there something much more going on? Could this be the long-awaited Messiah?

At the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple we turn back to the infancy narratives which tell of how those with eyes to see could see the answer even before Jesus had done anything.

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel." [Luke 2:28-32]

He saw the light and the glory of God in this baby whilst others in the temple simply saw another poor family coming to do what the law required for their first-born son. Anna too saw the significance of this child. Here were two devout and holy people, Anna especially of great age, who were not part of the religious establishment. They simply loved God and longed to spend time in God’s presence in the temple, watching and waiting for the salvation of God’s people. This is a feast of ordinary people seeing extraordinary things.

Anna is to me an inspiration for our own lives of prayer, never leaving the temple but worshipping there with fasting and prayer night and day as Luke tells us in his gospel. As an elderly childless widow she was of no account and in worldly terms had wasted her life in the temple. But in the simplicity and focus of her long life her eyes were opened to what God was doing through this child.

The Anna chaplains affirm this gift of old age, the gift of lives that can appear worthless, yet carry a deep wisdom which can surprise those who think they know better. I remember with gratitude the time when I was praying the office with Sr Mary Cuthbert in the midst of her confusion. She concluded the Lord’s prayer with ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us to glory’. What a beautiful inversion of ‘deliver us from evil’! ‘Deliver us to glory’, especially at that point in her life when death was drawing near. We can hear an echo of Simeon’s prayer – she had seen God’s glory and knew it was calling her onward, that it was time to let go of this life.

I hope that each one of us, as we faithfully live out our monastic vocation, will grow in our openness to God’s glory in whatever way it manifests. We don’t know how our lives will develop in the coming weeks, months or years but we know that God is faithful. In due time God will deliver each one of us to glory and I pray that as we journey onwards to that ultimate destination our eyes will always be open to God’s glory manifested here and now in all that comes our way. That apparently insignificant child was the coming of God’s salvation and that salvation continues to come to each one of us in ways we cannot anticipate.

So let us open our eyes to God’s glory and be bold and courageous in embracing our salvation in whatever guise it comes.

As we shall sing shortly at Vespers:

Arise, shine, O Jerusalem, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. You shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice. [First Antiphon for Vespers of the Presentation, Malling Abbey]

Mother Anne - 2nd February 2024