Anna the Prophet vs. Michael the Archangel

Anna the Prophet vs. Michael the Archangel

Anna the Prophet

Anna the Prophet stained glassLike many women in the Bible, Anna doesn’t have a lot of scriptural context to sketch a complete biography. However, the simple fact that Anna is given a name and title speaks to the importance of this woman. Known as Anna the Prophet, she is recognized as the widow who was with Simeon in the temple when Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph shortly after his birth.

Saint Luke (2:36–38) tells us: “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 for 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.”

As a Jewish prophet, Anna led a life of devotion to God through daily prayer, worship, and work at the temple. Anna is honored as a saint for her recognition of Christ as the Messiah during his presentation in the temple. Both Simeon and Anna were transformed by their encounter with Jesus, which led to the creation of the Song of Simeon that we sing to this day. Also known as the Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon is a traditional canticle often used in Compline and Evensong.

Although we don’t know much about the details of her life, Anna’s presence and witness offer several important lessons. She teaches us about the importance of prayer and fasting to prepare for the coming of our Lord. She models for us the importance of patience, since much of a faithful life is spent waiting. Her diligence assures us that the practices of prayer, fasting, preparation, and patience will give us a reward far greater than anything we can imagine. Anna teaches us that our faithful practices allow us to participate in the coming of Christ.

Anna’s feast day is celebrated on February 3.

Collect for Anna the Prophet
Almighty and life-giving God, we give thanks for the witness of Anna the Prophet who recognized our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during his presentation in the temple. We give thanks, O Lord, for the teachings of Anna that show us the path to glory can be found through prayer, fasting, preparation, and patience; in Christ’s name. Amen.

-Anna Fitch Courie

Michael the Archangel

Michael the ArchangelThe word angel means messenger from God. Archangels are considered the chief angels in the hierarchy of angels, although most of this hierarchy is human construct. The full name of Michael translates to “Who is like God?”—an obviously rhetorical question. Michael is mentioned in the holy texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Michael is described in the Bible as a helper and defender of God’s holy people, the one who cares for the dead (Michael even argues with the devil over Moses’ body in the book of Jude). Most notably, Michael is portrayed as fighting and defeating the dragon in the Book of Revelation. Michael is frequently depicted as a warrior angel, holding a sword and a shield and standing astride a defeated and subdued dragon.

While Michael has been invoked in prayer through the centuries as the defender and protector of the people of God, the warrior image is a more modern concept. In the early centuries of Christianity, the faithful venerated Michael as a defender and protector, not through violence and war but through healing. Churches, shrines, and holy places dedicated to Michael began appearing in the fourth century as places of healing. Many of these holy places were built around hot springs in Greece and Asia. Michael’s protection extended from life to death, as Michael guarded the souls of the dead against evil and guided them to God as they came into the kingdom of heaven.

Only as Christianity became associated with political and military might did the image of Michael shift to an archangel clad in armor and leading armies in the name of Christ. By the Middle Ages, Michael and George became the patron saints of chivalry, a code of conduct associated with knighthood and military service.

Michael is given credit for redirecting a river to save a church; standing with a sword over the tomb of Hadrian, thus protecting Rome from a devastating plague under the papacy of Gregory the Great; and appearing to the Bishop of Avranches in 708 with directions to build a church on the rocky islet now known as Mont Saint-Michel in France. Michael is also considered to be the domesticator of horses; legend holds that Michael taught Saint Florus and Saint Laurus to listen to the language of horses so they could be helpers to humanity.

Collect for Michael the Archangel
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Laurie Brock