Get to Know the Little-Known St. Anna the Prophetess

“She never left the Temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:37)

Rembrandt, “The Prophetess Anna”, 1639
Rembrandt, “The Prophetess Anna”, 1639 (photo: Public Domain)

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. ―Luke 2:36a, 37b


Feb. 3, the day after the Feast of the Presentation, honors a saint seldom mentioned in saint books, St. Anna the Prophetess.

There are only three verses in the New Testament that share information on St. Anna, yet her brief encounter with Christ is compelling.

Not long after the birth of Jesus, after the time for purification was completed as laid out in the twelfth chapter of Leviticus, Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. At first, the couple met Holy Simeon, who quickly felt an intense amazement over the Christ Child, strongly sensing that the baby was the promised Messiah. After Simeon’s blessing, the Holy Family encountered Anna.

Just a handful of details are known with certainty about this Anna. Her father’s name was Phanuel and she was of the tribe of Asher―an intriguing point due to the fact that the tribe of Asher was part of the northern kingdom of Israel, which was lost to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.. How an identifiable descendant of Asher ended up in city dozens of miles away and centuries later with her faith intact is thought-provoking.

Luke’s Gospel also tells that Anna had been married for only seven years before becoming a widow and was quite elderly (84 years old) when she met the Holy Family at the Temple. Anna would remain at the Temple constantly, living in continuous prayer and fasting. This highly pious woman was also known as a prophetess and undoubtedly had a very close relationship with God, understanding spiritual matters that others could not.

Anna, like Holy Simeon, was instantly struck by the presence of the baby Jesus when she met the Holy Family. She also seemed to mystically realize that the child was the much-hoped-for Messiah. Upon seeing the baby, Anna gave great thanks to God. She then shared with many others, who also hoped for redemption, knowledge of the babe―her words and actions giving remembrance to the message of the prophet Isaiah:

Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted his people, has redeemed Jerusalem. ―Isaiah 52:9


Six Days with St. Anna the Prophetess

If this kind, prayerful, elderly woman calls out to you, consider spending a few days contemplating some Bible passages to help understand her life, and her Tribe-of-Asher heritage a little better:

  • Luke 2:22–24
  • Leviticus 12
  • Luke 2:36–38
  • Isaiah 52:9
  • Genesis 30:12
  • Joshua 19:24
  • 2 Kings 17:6, 18