The prophet who met the Saviour.
Our reporter, Aemilia Metella, interviews the elderly lady, Anna, who knew the meaning of patience.
Anna shuffles with the impression of being an old woman, but her lively face tells a different story. I take her arm and with a sigh, she leans on my arm and bends her knees to sit down. I offer her a drink and she sits straight-backed with the cup in her hands.
“You want to speak to me, dear.” Her voice is as strong as a woman half her age.
I lean towards her, “Good morning, Anna. Yes, I want to ask about that morning in the Temple.”
“There’s no need to shout. I may be old, but my hearing is still good. It’s best not to whisper, though.” Her laugh echoes around the room and surprises me with its intensity. “I’ve had two children, eight grandchildren, and I have ten great-grandchildren, and I’ve held them all shortly after their birth. But nothing prepared me for holding that baby boy.”
“Before we talk about that day, can you tell me a little about your life?”
“Like every girl in my village, I was married young, and we soon added two children to our family. We dreamed of a long life and getting old together, but after only seven years my dear husband died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be sorry. That was a long time ago and I’ve had a long and happy life.”
“How do you spend your days?”
“I live with my son and daughter-in-law, but they are old themselves now. Their house is near the Temple, where I go every day. As I have done since my children no longer needed me to care for them. Every morning I walk into the Temple and go through to the Court of Women where I spend the day in prayer and worship.”
“Is that all you do every day?”
Anna looks at me and smiles, her eyes twinkling with amusement. “It sounds as if you think it’s boring.”
I try to say something but only manage to smile through my embarrassment.
“Most people think that way, but it’s far from the truth,” she continues. “Being in God’s house is the best and most fulfilling thing I do every day. Each evening when I leave the Temple, I look forward to going back the next day. As well as praying, I spend the time talking to people about God and what he means to me. Some people call me a prophet, and others say I’m a nuisance. I don’t mind either way and perhaps they are one and the same. There is an old man, Simeon, who along with me spends his days in the Temple, and we often talk and pray together.”
“Can you take me through the events of that day?”
Anna is quiet for a moment and looks at her hands on her lap. When she looks back up, she wipes a tear away from her cheek with a gnarled finger. “For many decades I have waited and hoped to see this day. It is what has kept me going for so long when everyone I knew from my youth has died. Each morning I awake with the hope and prayer that today will be the day. Together with Simeon, we have prayed that we will both see this day before we die.”
She breathes in deeply and watches the light coming through the open window. “That day began like any other, and I made my way up the steps into the Temple. As usual, I sat in the colonnades, at the sides of the court and watched the people coming and going.
“It was Simeon who noticed them first. He was leaving the Court of the Israelites and stopped as if someone held him tight to prevent him from moving. I followed his gaze towards a young couple. They caused no stir or had nothing about them to make them stand out from any of the other worshipers. The young woman held a baby, and her husband placed a protective arm around her shoulders to steer her through the busy throng. In his other hand was a cage with two pigeons which he gave to the priest on duty who took them away to be sacrificed.
“I moved to stand beside Simeon, and without speaking we watched them turn to move away. The mother passed by Simeon and looked up at him with a smile, then stopped and turned around to look at him. Recognising that he knew what she knew, she placed her baby in his arms.
“Simeon was speechless at first and with tears dripping off his chin he thanked God that he had lived long enough to see the Saviour of the world. With a hand placed on her shoulder, he told the mother that many people will follow the baby. But others will oppose him, and a sword will pierce her heart. Simeon went to give the baby back to her, and I asked if I may hold him too. His father didn’t look sure, I think he thought I was too frail to hold him secure, but his wife said it would be all right.”
The tears in Anna’s eyes shone with delight. “I looked into the baby’s eyes and they stared back at me, as if into my soul. His tiny hand reached out and stroked my chin. There have been many important events in my long life, but nothing can match that momentous occasion.
“I could not but shout and sing out in praise to my God. When I handed the baby back, I asked what his name was, and his father answered, Yeshua, which means salvation. The father took the child and replaced him in his mother’s arms, and the Temple felt smaller after they left. Simeon and I tried to talk to people about what we had witnessed, but everyone was too busy to listen to us.”
“When did this happen?”
“It was six days ago.”
A young woman enters and bends down in front of Anna, “Are you ready to go home, Grandmother?” She asks.
Anna nods and her granddaughter helps her to stand. “Thank you for listening, dear. It is good to talk to you.”
I take her wrinkled hands in mine, “Are you returning to the Temple?” I ask.
Anna’s shoulders sink and the creases on her face seem to deepen. “No, I will go home now.”
Aemilia Metella is my fictional Roman journalist whose mission is to bring to light those first women disciples, and the contribution they made to the growth of the early church.
This is an imaginary interview with Anna, as if Aemilia Metella is writing an article for the Jerusalem Times! The incident that Anna recounts is at the end of her long life and is told in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2 verses 22 to 40.
Is there someone you would like Aemilia Metella to interview? I’m thinking of women in the New Testament who usually don’t get much attention. Let me know in the comments and I will see if they are available!
“Nothing prepared me for holding that baby boy.”
“Being in God’s house is the best and most fulfilling thing I do every day.”
“I asked what his name was, and his father answered, Yeshua, which means salvation.”
Susan Sutherland is the author of Leaving Bethany which was published in November 2020. She is currently working on a sequel.