My name is Anna and I’ve been living here in the temple for—well, I’m not going to tell you how many years. A woman must have her secrets, even at my age! I make my bed each night here on the porch of the Court of Women, grateful for the shelter. A childless widow like me is usually out on the streets, destitute and starving because we have no one to care for us. But I’ve found a home here in God’s temple and that gives me the privilege of living out King David’s words:
“How lovely are your dwellings, YHWH of hosts! My soul longs and faints for your courts. Yes, the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself near your altars, my King, and my God.”
So here I am—just a little sparrow nesting near the altars of my God.
I love dwelling here in the courts of YHWH, worshiping, fasting, listening to the prayers and teachings of our leaders, and praying for the myriads who pass through this court to make their offerings. I love the pageantry of the yearly festivals, the mingled fragrances of incense and burnt offerings, the cacophony of the crowds mixed with the bleating of sacrificial lambs and goats.
And I especially love it when a couple brings their child here into the Court of Women to make an offering and present the babe to YHWH. That’s my chance to offer to pray and prophesy for their child. Most couples are happy to receive prayer—and some of them even allow me to hold their baby as I welcome YHWH’s presence and goodness into their child’s life. Trust me, there’s something incredibly precious for a childless woman like me to be able to hold a newborn in my own arms and speak words of blessing.
But today I’m holding a tiny boy unlike any other. I take him into my arms like I have tens of thousands before him throughout the decades. But this one is different. As I gaze into his face, I have this uncanny feeling that he knows me—like he has seen me throughout my whole life. It’s as if he was there when I was kneeling in the dust playing sheep’s knuckles as a little girl; blushing as a young bride with my dear husband, Shlomo; weeping together with Shlomo as we remained childless year after year; grieving as a young widow; fasting, praying, and prophesying here in the temple for all these decades. Somehow, he has seen all of it and he knows. He knows the pain, the delight, the fear, the guilt, the joy, the sorrow—all of it. He knows me!
Then something stirs in my memory and a realization begins to dawn. There were some shepherds here in the temple a few days ago all excited, telling unbelievable tales of a massive angel announcing that our savior had been born. They even found a little boy lying in a manger like the angel told them. At the time, I didn’t know what to make of it all, but now I can see: I’m holding that very same little boy in my arms! It’s him! It’s the Messiah! …the hope of the ages! He’s here! And he knows me! Our savior is right here, nestled on my bosom. Glory to God in the highest! The redemption of Jerusalem, of our whole nation—no, the redemption of the whole earth is right here in my arms! Praise YHWH!
Based on Luke 2:36-38: “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
~ Kathryn Kircher, writer
~ painting entitled Adoration by Daniel Bonnell, artist, https://bonnellart.com