Simeon and Anna Praise the infant Jesus,
Painted by Arent de Gelder (1645–1727),
Painted circa 1700,
Oil on canvas
© Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands
There was a prophetess, Anna
There was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
Reflection on the Painting
Today’s Gospel reading of Luke says that ‘in meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and He was filled with wisdom’… This sentence summarises 90% of the life of Jesus! Jesus spent thirty, of his thirty three years on earth, living an ordinary life in Nazareth. He was doing things probably most young men of his age were doing: working, playing, socialising, praying etc… These ‘hidden years’ were crucial for Jesus’ ministry, as it is in those years that His mission matured and that He prepared for the day He would really start actively spreading the Word of God. Those thirty years Jesus spent with His parents in Nazareth, reveal to us the value of our ordinary day-to-day lives.
But it is Anna, the prophet, who has the final word in the nativity story which Luke shared with us. She highlights the importance of the birth of Jesus Christ, who would change the world forever. She has a burning need to tell others about the life transforming salvation offered through Christ. She is a prophet, and she can see what is coming, whilst holding Jesus in her arms. The tenderness of her embrace, embracing Salvation…
Our painting shows Simeon and Anna. The Holy Spirit told the devout Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph bring their child to the temple, the Holy Spirit had led Simeon there as well. Upon seeing the child, Simeon recognised immediately the Redeeemer in Him. Anna, the prophet, practically lived in the temple and she is seen here joining Simeon in praise of the infant. The painter, Arendt de Gelder was a pupil of Rembrandt, and his influence is clearly visible.
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