By Hannah Coley
Hannah Coley is a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize. Over the next few months, check out #JVStories as she examines the way women in Scripture have given her clarity and resolve as a women in the Catholic Church. Hannah explores femininity again, but through the lens of Anna and what it means to be the Mother.
The Mother, Discernment and femininity—what’s next?
“Soul Sisters” has been an effective tool for my own discernment of vocation. I began to use this book as a source of prayer. It was in response to my own questions of religious involvement, advocacy and dedication to my faith, as a female member of the Catholic Church, and an American within Belizean society.
With twelve days spent on individual reflection on my relationship with each of the twelve women in this book, I entered further into discernment. I continue to reflect on my personal understanding of how to “live out” my own femininity in service, community and personal conversation with God my Mother. Jesuit Volunteer Corps has been an opportunity to be in community with others who are also intentionally reflecting in similar ways. This week, I share with you my conversations with Anna the Prophetess.
Finding Meaning As a Women
“There was also a certain prophetess, Anna by name, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Ashe…She was constantly in the temples, worshiping day and night in fasting and prayer. Coming on the scene at this moment, she gave thanks to God and talked about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38
Luke’s words signify Anna as honorable. Her old age and her wisdom are revered. The appositive, prophetess, following Anna, her birth-given name meaning “grace”, is one she earned through the countless hours she spent in the temple. Fervently listening to God’s words. Finding meaning and place in God’s home, a place typically led by men and filled with the religious advice of men.
The Fullness of a Name
It is in her full name Anna the Prophetess, that Anna captures the ears and attention of even the most powerful and devout of men. She is the only female prophetess to be mentioned by name in the New Testament. As a prophetess, Anna accepts insight and reflections into things that are ordinarily hidden or obscure to most people.
She boldly believes in, hopes in and expresses conviction and truth of the coming Messiah. At a time when most women were silenced and dismissed in her society, as most women in patriarchal societies still are often silenced. Anna expresses “good news” that she hoped would offer joy and comfort to those in her community. Those who had also committed their lives to the temple for the coming of the Messiah.
She says, “The Messiah is on his way. Look towards the light. You need not fear.” She found her place, home and dedication in the temple beside male authority figures. In her old age and wisdom, Anna passionately dedicates her life to prayer in the temple. This decision is not just for herself but also serves as a way to comfort and guide her community with the words of God’s love. Anna is an aging female intermediary of God’s love. She is both Anna the Prophetess and Anna the Priestess.
Women I am Reminded Of
When reflecting upon Anna’s narrative, a mural that I often pass in Punta Gorda Town comes to mind. While I am not exactly sure who the artist of this mural is, most of the individuals that this artist chose to depict are Belizean women. They are young and old and of different ethnic backgrounds. Both Anna and this mural inspire my reflection about vocation and womanhood.
A maternal care runs deep and soulfully in the veins of tradition across generations and cultures of Belizean women. In the Garifuna culture, the elder women are recognized as the holders of wisdom and experience, the ones bringing new life in to the tradition of music, singing, storytelling, family and socio-historical hardship.
Maya women are seen as mother and caretakers. They are women in tune with the earth through such things as using the ingredients that are most accessible from the earth to nourish the mouths of their loved ones. Even more so, through the natural process of birthing and labor, as their female bodies work to create life until it can create no longer. In my eyes, these women are holy.
Just as God the Mother nurtures, nourishes and protects us, these women, too, are creatively connected. I witness this in the ways in which they physically and spiritually nourish their families and communities. Then in the empowered way they spiritually nourish one another.
Femininity IS prophet-like
These women are briefly mentioned. Their lives are often hurried over. The strength in their stories are often diminished in Scripture.
I consider these women to be prophets. Perhaps even the first apostles of Jesus Christ. These women truly give Jesus’ radically gentle and loving words ears to land upon. These women give Jesus’ actions validation and manifestation.
Hannah Coley graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2016, prior to signing the covenant as a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize for the 2016-2018 program year! She serves as a Youth/Liturgical Coordinator at St. Peter Claver Parish.