Posted by: HAT | December 29, 2014

Crazy Anna

Gathering of priests on steps of Temple, people in foreground

Another day in (ancient) parish ministry …

Hi, Gang!

Yesterday’s text of the day was Luke 2:22-40, “the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple,” which includes the Song of Simeon and not really the Song of Anna, but an episode with Anna. For those who haven’t spent their whole lives in and around church, in this story Mary & Joseph are observing a religious/ethnic law that requires Mary to perform a ritual of purification after childbirth, and also requires everyone to redeem their firstborn males, who are otherwise dedicated to God. So off they go to the Temple in Jerusalem, possibly having the feeling “we were just here a month ago …” – as if it were legitimate to project our own contemporary psychology onto Biblical characters, which I very much doubt.

Anyway, the Holy Family encounters an old man, Simeon, who has been waiting for the Messiah and has been promised by God that he won’t die until he sees the Messiah, and he makes a long speech about Jesus and has some fairly ominous words with Mary as well. Then, they encounter an ancient widow and prophet, Anna, who has been living a contemplative life in the Temple since her late husband died, and she, too, makes speeches about Jesus.

So, I confess, as this text is being read in church yesterday, I think: hmm, I wonder whether she’s “Crazy Anna,” and says stuff like this to all the babies? Like, people who know the Temple warn the newcomers, “don’t make eye contact, or she’ll go off …” (Again, as if it were legitimate to project our own experience onto the biblical one … but seriously, I think anyone who has ridden the el in Chicago will know what I am talking about.)

The sermon turned out to be about recognizing Christ in the people around us. And there is a story I read somewhere, about a monastery that was struggling with lots of internal problems and hired a consultant, and the consultant, after some contemplation and interviewing all of the monks, convened the group and said “I have it on good authority that the Messiah is among you, one of this group; I just don’t know which one of you it is.” They took this report very seriously, of course, and to be on the safe side, they all started treating each member of the group like he was the Messiah. Later, people used to say about that monastery “It’s amazing how loving they are to each other.”

So, I think … suppose Anna had said stuff like that to all the babies, would she have been all wrong?


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