The Holy Anna, Prophet

The next figure to the right has much in common with Simeon. The gospel tells that this old widow, Anna, was a prophet and “never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” Like Simeon she was at home in the temple, and like him she recognized the divine light shining through the little child presented in the temple: “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.” So together with Simeon this old woman is one of the first on earth to give witness to the revelation made manifest in Jesus Christ. Therefore, she is also venerated as a saint and depicted with a halo and “The Holy Anna, prophet” inscribed on her “visiting card”.

Foto: Håkan Bengtsson

She also holds a word of Scripture in Hebrew. When contemplating on the text, which is copied directly from an authentic Torah scroll, we may think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets … For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota (i.e. the smallest letter), not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." Here we can see the little iota – the second from the left – and perhaps also the “strokes”, which could refer to the small decorations on top of some letters. Hence, the biblical message that Anna is conveying may remind Christians of how faithfully the Jewish people have preserved the original text, down to the smallest detail. 

The six words are taken from Exodus 34:6-7 and read “full of grace and truth, keeping grace for thousands”, which is the proclamation Moses hears when he is about to receive the tablets of the covenant as a sign of God´s forgiveness after the sin of the golden calf. Probably these are the words referred to in John 1:16-17: “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law (i.e. the Torah) was given by Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” In this way, Anna is also praising God – just like Simeon – for a revelation that God has prepared both for his first covenantal people and for all nations.