30 December
Lk 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 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. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Simeon (yesterday’s reading) and Anna are the two beautiful old people we meet every year at this time.  How peaceful their presence is!  We need them.  They are grandparent figures.  There has been an extraordinary poverty of wisdom on the subject of old age.  Most of what poets said on the subject was about living in the past, or being dulled in all the senses, or dreading death…. Sometimes this was tempered by a mellow stoicism:
“So mayest thou live; till, like ripe fruit, thou drop
Into thy mother's lap; or be with ease
Gathered, nor harshly plucked; for death mature:
This is Old Age.”          (John Milton)
But a few lines later the atmosphere is gloom once more:
“In thy blood will reign
A melancholy damp of cold and dry
To weigh thy spirits down, and last consume
The balm of life.”
Nor have our attitudes improved much since Milton’s time.  Old age and death are the test of our wisdom; they reveal where we really are when all our flights of fancy are over. 

Simeon and Anna were among those known as “the Quiet of the Land.”  These were people who had no big dream of victories for Israel, but who lived in quietness and prayer, waiting for God; Anna was eighty-four years old, the account says; yet her spirit seems bright and fresh.  Far from being out of touch, she seems more in touch than anyone. “She came up to them at that very moment….”  She lived in the Now, not in the past.


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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