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Happy Candlemas!

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Feb. 2nd, 2011 | 12:39 pm

Today is Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It marks the day when the infant Christ was presented in the temple, and Mary offered her sacrifice for ritual purification after birth.  The story is told in Luke 2:22-40.

While in the temple, Mary and Jesus were met by two interesting characters, one of which was Saint Anna the Prophetess.  St Anna has always been a great inspiration for me.  She is given only three verses in the whole Bible (Luke 2:36-38), yet those couple sentences give us a striking image of the woman: an elderly widow, praying and fasting day and night, waiting on God, waiting... waiting... waiting... and then the Promised One comes, and this devout, quiet woman just can't keep to herself!  May God give us all the paradoxical patience and excitement that Anna had.

Anna's life of prayer and fasting has been a model for my own life.  By God's grace I have committed myself to a weekly cycle of prayer and fasting, and I know from hard and guilty experience that it is only by God's grace that I can fulfill my calling to that lifestyle.  The example of St Anna, who was not only weekly or daily but constantly in the conscious presence of God, has strengthened my resolve to complete and to rejoice in the task that God has put before me.

One of my dreams is to start a "Society of St Anna," basically a quasi-monastic body dedicated to perpetual prayer and fasting.  Think a liturgical IHOP, an Anglican Prayer House network.  A movement with the charismatic energy and reliance on the Holy Spirit that IHOP has, combined with the theological rootedness of Anglicanism and the ascetic tendencies of catholic Christianity, could be very powerful.

When writing up a draft Rule that such a Society could adopt, I identified six traits of St Anna that would be the the basis for the Society's operation (it's amazing how much you can get out of just three Scripture verses!).  They are also things that every Christian should imitate in his own life.  They are:

-Special Calling. “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.” Anna had a unique ministry within the Gospel story, and so do we.  We are all supposed to do the whole work of Christ- we all evangelize, we all teach, we all serve, etc., to some degree.  But we each have a special spiritual emphasis that God has give nus.  Some of us have discerned a special vocation of prayer and fasting; some, to service and works of charity.  We ought not belittle the prayer lives of other Christians, or the importance of other callings (to evangelism, prophetic ministry, the priesthood, etc.), but own up to our own particular calling as God enables us.

-Devotion to the Temple. “She did not depart from the Temple…”  Our special callings and gifts are to be activated and utilized in the Lord’s Temple, the Church, in faithfulness to the teaching of Christ as decisively revealed in Holy Scripture and expounded in the Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church.  We are to serve God as baptized, communicant members of His Church.

-Regular prayer and fasting. “…worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day.”  Temple worship was not a weekly ritual for Anna- it was her entire life!  Prayer and fasting are not options for Christians: they are the bread and butter of Christian life.  As the hymn says, "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, the Christian's native air."  We should be diligent to set regular, daily times for prayer, and beyond those times, to live our whole lives in communication with Our Father.

-Spirit-led ministry. “And there was a prophetess, Anna...” We honor God by embracing their own spiritual gifts.  Whether yours is prophecy, like Anna; or tongues, or teaching, or administration, or miracles, you owe it to God to use what He's given you.  We ought to pray for God to shower spiritual gifts on us.  The Church as a whole is a prophetic institution guided by a prophetic Spirit.  We must listen closely to what the Spirit is saying to us; and at the same time hold fast to the Bible as the supreme prophecy, the infallible Word of God, and the supreme written witness of the Spirit, and teach and proclaim it to those around us.

-Evangelism. “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting…"  As Christians walk in the Spirit in a lifestyle of prayer, fasting, and righteousness, supported by the grace of Christ, they will be witnesses to the glory of the kingdom of God.  The worship of the Church gives us a foretaste of heaven; our job is to take bits and pieces of the celestial meal and deliver it to the world, whose inhabitants are desperately waiting for redemption.

-Anticipation of Christ’s Return. “…to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”  As the people of Christ, believe steadfastly in, and are called eagerly to look forward to, His coming in glory.  Everything we do- prayer, fasting, good works, evangelism- are not done to earn brownie points for ourselves, but to prepare ourselves and the world for the physical return of the King.

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Comments {1}

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from: stelimortan
date: Feb. 2nd, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)

Fun fact: I inevitably read IHOP at first glance as "International House of Pancakes" and your point still worked, because I thought "open 24 hours."

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