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#1 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 07:21 PM

Something in the "American Orthodox" thread struck me: is there such a thing as a Holy or Sacred language (Byzantine Greek and Old Church Slavonic)? Surely these were just the languages that people spoke at the time and the texts have been preserved for us in the service books. Either all languages are sacred or these are specially sacred. Do the Fathers have anything to say on this?

This led me to thinking about the Calendar: is the Julian Calendar specially sacred or is it just a calendar used for recording the passage of time? If the former, then shouldn't everyone use the Julian Calendar, if the latter, then it seems the Julian Calendar is out of time with nature so shouldn't we all use the Revised Calendar? What do the Fathers say?

I'm sorry for opening a can of worms: please can any/all replies not be a place for denouncing a particular language or calendar!

With love in Christ

Alex


#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 08:43 PM

As soon as language is used in the Church it becomes a churchly and liturgical language. And that is why even though the roots may be identical to what was once a spoken language Church Slavonic for example is different from Russian.

Perhaps the whole issue of the calendar will in time be solved in this fashion. Posted Image

In Christ- Fr Raphael


#3 Andrew Williams

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 11:15 PM

As far as I understand it, Church Slavonic is a language that was in fact created specifically for the Church -- it was based on the language spoken in these parts at the time (now called 'Old Slavonic'), but with a good few elements of Greek thrown in for concepts that weren't readily available in Old Slavonic. In this respect, it was specifically created to be a 'Church' language. Of course, modern Russian includes derivatives of Church Slavonic as well as Old Slavonic.

We were discussing the language issue here in Moscow this morning, as it is now almost impossible to find an English-language liturgy served here at all, which was not the case a few years ago. Apparently some people think it would give us an unfair advantage, as Russians can not have a liturgy in their own everyday language, why should we?! (Speaking more seriously, apparently there is some fear that allowing English-language liturgies would encourage a greater push to allow Russian to be used, especially as so many people in Moscow understand English and might be more interested in English-language liturgy than Slavonic).

Fr Raphael, what do you mean when you say,

Perhaps the whole issue of the calendar will in time be solved in this fashion.



#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 03:28 PM

Dear Andrew,

First a few words about the first part of your post. You wrote

As far as I understand it, Church Slavonic is a language that was in fact created specifically for the Church -- it was based on the language spoken in these parts at the time (now called 'Old Slavonic'), but with a good few elements of Greek thrown in for concepts that weren't readily available in Old Slavonic.


I am far from being a Slavonic expert- only someone who had to learn Slavonic in basic when I arrived in this parish about 11 years ago. I am under the impression that Church Slavonic is a product of the Church much more than reflecting some ancient stage of Slavic languages. Although it may have some correspondance to these ancient stages of Slavic it also corresponds to the more modern versions of Slavic (eg Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian) in some ways. To put it in another way- Church Slavonic is not simply the proto-Slavic language of the time of Sts Cyril & Methodios, nor of St Nahum of Bulgaria. It originates from that time it is true but has always been adjusting itself through time. This is why it seems almost universal that with some study most any speaker of the eastern Slavic languages (I say eastern only because I am not sure how Church Slavonic would be for example a Czech) can understand Slavonic. But above all of course Slavonic is a language that has been formed by the Church and as such is deeply theological and liturgical.

Surprisingly almost all Greek theological terms were able to be translated into Slavonic despite the early Slavic language having no conceptually suitable words. This is what has given Russian both a more popular spoken version and as well as a version used by those within the Church which uses many theological words, words which relate to piety & also at times can modify the grammar with which one speaks. A Church language like Slavonic therefore plays a role far beyond simply adding words to normal speech- as we in the west within the Church tend to do. It actually enriches and adds another dimension to speech in these countries. This is very important to keep in mind when considering abolishing Slavonic for the use of contemporary language- and is probably the main reason why even as the faithful struggle with the issue of comprehension they often choose to retain the Church language.

About the calendar issue. What I mean is that there are some issues within the Church which are are probably not going to be really solved only through discussion. Mostly I think the calendar issue will be solved by our ongoing life within the Church.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#5 Alec Lowly

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 01:36 AM

Father Raphael writes:

"As soon as language is used in the Church it becomes a churchly and liturgical language. And that is why even though the roots may be identical to what was once a spoken language Church Slavonic for example is different from Russian./ Perhaps the whole issue of the calendar will in time be solved in this fashion."

I possess a monograph, "The Orthodox Church Calendar," published by Holy Trinity Lavra/ROCOR, which basically argues that yes, this is the solution to the calendar problem.

First, Bishop Photius of Triaditsa goes on at length about the trashing of canons when the New Calendar was promulgated, equating this with apostasy, etc. Then Ludmila Perepiolkina writes about the Julian Calendar as "an icon of time."

Just as we can pray in any language, we can worship under any calendar, or so it seems to me. But I guess I don't yet possess the spiritual insight or whatever into these matters that I should have, I guess. Also, it's difficult for me to grasp the idea that languages and calendars are inherently sacred, although I suppose they become sacred if we insist that they are. And some people certainly do insist. Which is circular reasoning, or so it seems to me.

I have one question for Ms. Perepiolkina: Why does the church need to have an icon of time? Frankly, this does not sound to me like an Orthodox concept. Do the Fathers speak of time as an icon?

Sigh.

In XC,
Alec Lowly, sinner


#6 Alec Lowly

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 02:10 AM

"(Speaking more seriously, apparently there is some fear that allowing English-language liturgies would encourage a greater push to allow Russian to be used, especially as so many people in Moscow understand English and might be more interested in English-language liturgy than Slavonic)."

This is so bizarre that I guess it just has to be true. I mean, it reads like a satire. Why in Heaven's name can the Russians not have liturgy in Russian? In the current situation, one would think that the ROC would be doing everything in its power to reach out to the people with the Gospel. What's the use of Slavonic?

Perplexed,
Alec Lowly


#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 03:25 PM

Dear Alec,

You wrote

Just as we can pray in any language, we can worship under any calendar, or so it seems to me. But I guess I don't yet possess the spiritual insight or whatever into these matters that I should have, I guess. Also, it's difficult for me to grasp the idea that languages and calendars are inherently sacred, although I suppose they become sacred if we insist that they are. And some people certainly do insist. Which is circular reasoning, or so it seems to me.

I have one question for Ms. Perepiolkina: Why does the church need to have an icon of time? Frankly, this does not sound to me like an Orthodox concept. Do the Fathers speak of time as an icon?


We do not pray in just any type of language for language as a reflection of the thought, feelings and passions of man can be debased as much as it can be noble or beautiful. So the character of a language is related to how it is used which can also change over time and place (eg English is far from being one language- it is many different languages). Probably though there is no language that cannot be lifted up by the Church and made suitable for its use.

About the calendar. I agree that other forms of the calendar are possible. I could be wrong but I am not sure that all Orthodox in the past (Syriacs?) used the same Church calendar as we did up until 1924. The point however is that the calendar we use in the Church is that which was formulated by the Church. And as such the principles by which the Church formulated the calendar need to be understood before any changes are made. This calendar is not simply the secular calendar as adopted for use in the Church- it actually is a means by which we mark sacred time within the Church. Thus for example the civil calendar marks mechanical time while the Church calendar is a complex meshing of the Paschal and Menaion calendars. Especially when we use this calendar on a daily basis mainly through the daily services then we recognise its significance.

Of course I am not a spokesman for Ms. PerepiolkinaPosted Image maybe she would answer differently from me. I do not know.

In any case it is not that the Church 'needs' an icon of time. This is the wrong way of looking at the question as if the Church invents things for the use of the faithful. Rather the Church as the Body of Christ is always theanthropological in all that it does; ie it always reflects the incarnational economia of God for man. So that everything the Church accomplishes is a means for the restoration of man and creation to that sacramental state where man is restored to communion with God. In other words everything within the Church is iconic and through Her spiritual life everything within the Church is in a process of being restored to its iconic state. Indeed we can truly say that man's whole role is to be an icon & through his life in Christ his responsibility is also to restore creation to its iconic state. As such, time which is one of the most inseparable aspects of the created state (as St Augustine explains time is inseparable from the movement inherent in creation) is also capable of being seen in an iconic way as a doorway to the eternal. As they say, "redeem the time."

The Church and Holy Frs speak of this issue and of the question of time in this iconic manner. If you wish there is a wonderful article about the Orthodox understanding of time in The Innner Kingdom- Essays of Bishop Kallistos Ware (SVS Press, 2004)- Essay 11- Time: Prison or Path to Freedom?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#8 Andrew Williams

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 05:57 PM

This is so bizarre that I guess it just has to be true. I mean, it reads like a satire. Why in Heaven's name can the Russians not have liturgy in Russian? In the current situation, one would think that the ROC would be doing everything in its power to reach out to the people with the Gospel. What's the use of Slavonic?


I think Fr Raphael has made some points about the 'use' of Slavonic already. There are also obvious points against its continued exclusive use. I personally incline towards an increased use of Russian, especially for scripture readings. However, even here, most committed Orthodox believers in Russia will read the day's readings in Russian before coming to church -- and this may be a practice of considerable spiritual value. In our parish, someone makes available a printed version of the readings in Russian so that those who wish to can have it with them as the readings are read.

I no longer believe that the language issue is as important to reaching out with the Gospel as you suggest (though I don't say it is entirely unimportant). There are a lot of thriving churches in Russia, and a lot of new Orthodox believers. Sermons are always in Russian, and extra-liturgical classes, catechesis and so on are also in Russian. Parallel texts, Slavonic and Russian, are popular. Basic knowledge of Slavonic is a great opportunity to improve knowledge of Russian history and literature, and in my experience not many people considering making a commitment to the faith actually find that Slavonic is one of the biggest barriers. Many Russian believers know many Slavonic liturgical texts by heart -- I am constantly amazed by how much this is true and it puts me to shame in any language. Even I find that I know more Slavonic liturgical texts off by heart than English ones!

I suppose I'm just saying that it's not as simple an issue as it first appears. (I suppose the same thing might be true about the calendar, but I haven't really understood the positives of the old calendar yet!)

#9 Guest_Scamandrius

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 10:36 PM

Andrew Williams wrote:

I haven't really understood the positives of the old calendar yet!

As one on the journey to Orthodoxy, I have to admit that the divide between "new calendarists" and "old calendarists" seemed infantile. However, after researching the history behind the divide and the nastiness used by both sides to characterize the opposition, I have to admit that I am sympathetic to the "old calendarists" though I am part of a parish that has adopted the modified Gregorian calendar. I don't see this issue as one as positive vs. negative. Yes, the Julian Calendar is asynchronous with the Gregorian by being 14 days behind. But that alone does not characterize it as negative! My sympathy derives from the hardened belief that the life of the church is counter-cultural. I was part of a Lutheran congregation that believed the exact opposite, i.e. to be in line with the rest of the secular world. That was one of the many reasons I left. My perspective, and this is strictly my own opinion, is that the adoption of the new calendar, though with modifications, was acquiescence to the world. The use of this calendar may be more suitable and convenient, but it should not come at the price of the soul of the church.

It seems to coincidie with the same time that several Orthodox jurisidictions came to use the modified Gregorian calendar also marks the beginning of Orthodoxy's participation in the ecumenical movement, which is a stranglehold upon Orthdooxy. Now I'm not trying to aruge a post hoc ergo propter hoc, I just think the coincidence is eye-opening.

Either way, all Orthodoxy needs to counter this divide and be unified. I don't know how or when this will happen, but should not occur at the expense of compromising with the secular world. I'm thankful that the different calendars do not separate us from celebrating Pascha together, but we should do the same for Nativity, Theophany, Dormition, etc.

Scamandrius
unworthy catechumen


#10 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 10:56 PM

I would simply like to add a few comments regarding the calendar issue. There is really nothing "holy" about the Julian (old) calendar or the Gregorian (new) calendar - both are simply the means for measuring the passage of time. One could just as easily use one calendar as the other.

The problems arise not with the use of one calendar or the other but with the attempt to use both in conjunction with one another. This is the case in many "new calendar" parishes where the paschal cycle is calculated according to the Julian (old) calendar while the fixed menaion is calculated according to the Gregorian (new) calendar. The attempt to use two different calendars to create a single entity does not work because the typicon assumes a single calendar. When a single calendar is used (as in old calendar parishes) then the cycles mesh beautifully. When two calendars are used (as in new calendar parishes) then the cycles come into conflict and clash (such as when Apostle's fast ends before it starts).

Let us use a single calendar - old or new makes no difference - but not both.

Fr David Moser

PS - yes, I know that the new calendar is technically the "revised julian", however it is for all practical purposes the Gregorian calendar hence my shorthand.


#11 Alec Lowly

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 01:01 AM

Father Raphael, bless ...

"The point however is that the calendar we use in the Church is that which was formulated by the Church. And as such the principles by which the Church formulated the calendar need to be understood before any changes are made. This calendar is not simply the secular calendar as adopted for use in the Church- it actually is a means by which we mark sacred time within the Church."

Yes, Father, I understand. And I think it's really important in the times we live in to be very clear about priorities, e.g., the calendar was made for the church, not the church for the calendar.

"Rather the Church as the Body of Christ is always theanthropological in all that it does; ie it always reflects the incarnational economia of God for man. So that everything the Church accomplishes is a means for the restoration of man and creation to that sacramental state where man is restored to communion with God. In other words everything within the Church is iconic and through Her spiritual life everything within the Church is in a process of being restored to its iconic state."

So everything the church does or doesn't do, by virtue of the fact that the church is the church, is right and proper and perfect? There is no possibility of the ~anthropos~ getting in the way of the ~Theos~ here and there, now and then? And the safe way down the royal road is simply to keep repeating everything that has gone before in the way that it went before?

In XC,
Alec Lowly, sinner

St. John of Kronstadt, Righteous Priest, pray for us!
Mother Maria of Paris, Nun-Martyr, pray for us!


#12 Alec Lowly

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 12:39 AM

Andrew Williams writes:

"Basic knowledge of Slavonic is a great opportunity to improve knowledge of Russian history and literature, and in my experience not many people considering making a commitment to the faith actually find that Slavonic is one of the biggest barriers."

The church's business is not to "improve knowledge of .. history and culture," although that's a good thing. The church's business is to proclaim the Gospel of OLGS Jesus Christ. If even one soul fails to get the message because Slavonic was a barrier, then away with Slavonic, I say. That one soul is infinitely more precious than a holy custom.

You say that in your experience, Slavonic is not a problem for those actually considering a commitment to the church. Ah: but what of the others we don't know about -- the ones in Russia today who go to the sects or else drift away entirely?

Where are our priorities?

In XC,
Alec Lowly, sinner

Mother Maria of Paris, Nun-Martyr, pray for us!


#13 Alec Lowly

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 12:11 AM

Scamandrius writes:

"Either way, all Orthodoxy needs to counter this divide and be unified. I don't know how or when this will happen, but should not occur at the expense of compromising with the secular world. I'm thankful that the different calendars do not separate us from celebrating Pascha together, but we should do the same for Nativity, Theophany, Dormition, etc."

I cannot for the life of me understand how the adoption of an astronomically accurate calendar represents "compromise with the secular world." Should we then set all our clocks and watches back two hours so that we may witness that we're Christians?

Father David's post about calendrical unity shows much wisdom. I would vote for the Gregorian calendar. The only reason some people offer for the rejection of the Gregorian calendar is that it was a papal initiative. If Rome declares that the earth is round, are we then obligated to affirm that the earth is flat?

In XC,
Alec Lowly, sinner


#14 Andrew Williams

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 01:08 PM

Where are our priorities?


What I was trying to say is that the issue is not as simple as it seems. You can talk about the hypothetical potential converts who might be put off by Slavonic. Indeed I have met people (and even been a person) who sometimes complains about it. However, it is also clear that a change to Russian language would cause uproar (to put in mildly) in the Church in Russia. The vast majority of churchgoers in Moscow at least are very keen (again, to put it mildly) on sticking to Slavonic. Such an uproar would probably not be a good thing. Alec, I agree with all the points you made in your last post. I ask only for an awareness of the difficulty of the issue for those who are faced with the responsibility of avoiding or promoting change in this area!

#15 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 03:45 PM

Father Raphael, bless ...

"The point however is that the calendar we use in the Church is that which was formulated by the Church. And as such the principles by which the Church formulated the calendar need to be understood before any changes are made. This calendar is not simply the secular calendar as adopted for use in the Church- it actually is a means by which we mark sacred time within the Church."

Yes, Father, I understand. And I think it's really important in the times we live in to be very clear about priorities, e.g., the calendar was made for the church, not the church for the calendar.


Dear Alec,

Christ's peace on you.

What I am trying to say is that the Church does not 'do' or 'make' things for the use of the faithful. The Church is the living Body of Christ and as such what we find within Her is an expression of the Life of Christ. That is why the Church is sacramental & iconic and not a religious/moral organisation invented by men who simply hear Christ's Word and try to put it into effect. Such things as the calendar even though certainly they can change are nevertheless an expression of the life of the Church & not of something which resulted purely from human invention.

"Rather the Church as the Body of Christ is always theanthropological in all that it does; ie it always reflects the incarnational economia of God for man. So that everything the Church accomplishes is a means for the restoration of man and creation to that sacramental state where man is restored to communion with God. In other words everything within the Church is iconic and through Her spiritual life everything within the Church is in a process of being restored to its iconic state."

So everything the church does or doesn't do, by virtue of the fact that the church is the church, is right and proper and perfect? There is no possibility of the ~anthropos~ getting in the way of the ~Theos~ here and there, now and then? And the safe way down the royal road is simply to keep repeating everything that has gone before in the way that it went before?


The Church can change course just as Christ could appeal in many ways to those around Him. And within the Church Her people are also involved in an ongoing struggle to find the truth & mistakes can certainly be made. But the course of the Church is determined by Her life in Christ. Otherwise again we end up with a purely human & moral organisation and not the Church.

I am not sure what your point is here- that the calendar was a mistake that we now need to correct? Because the Church as also human is subject to error? I certainly would not put the calendar into this category since it was the result of the Holy Frs of the 1st Ecumenical Council. To this day it continues to be used by many of the faithful to mark a sense of God's time within their lives. And I certainly would not say that the calendar fits into the category of repeating things over and over just because they were done in the past. The calendar- whichever one the Church chooses to use- has been and continues to be an expression of Tradition in the deepest sense.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#16 Alec Lowly

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 02:33 AM

Father Raphael, bless ...

"I am not sure what your point is here- that the calendar was a mistake that we now need to correct? Because the Church as also human is subject to error? I certainly would not put the calendar into this category since it was the result of the Holy Frs of the 1st Ecumenical Council. To this day it continues to be used by many of the faithful to mark a sense of God's time within their lives. And I certainly would not say that the calendar fits into the category of repeating things over and over just because they were done in the past. The calendar- whichever one the Church chooses to use- has been and continues to be an expression of Tradition in the deepest sense."

I'm not so much concerned about the calendar as such, Father, as about the sorry fact that it is a cause of, or else representative of, division within the church. So there's that sorry fact, which is then exacerbated by discussion, argument, schism, etc., over the pros and cons of this calendar, that calendar, etc.

Would that we Orthodox were devoting half as much of our time, energy and commitment to evangelization and works of mercy as to ritualist issues such as the calendar.

Father, have you ever read the essay "Types of Religious Life" by Mother (St.) Maria Skobtsova of Paris, (1891-1945)?

I know I'm not alone in recognizing this essay as one of the most significant Orthodox statements of modern times. The older I get, the greater I feel its influence on my prayer and reflection.

Another powerful influence on my spiritual life is Father (St.) John of Kronstadt. I believe that the Lord sent him as a prophet to Russia. Had his word been heard and done, Russia's history might well have been very different from the one we know.

It is my experience that the church would much rather serve akathists to these saints than do what they taught, which was a radical commitment to evangelization and kenotic service to "the least of these, our brethren."

In XC,
Alec Lowly, sinner


#17 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 03:07 PM

Dear Alec my brother in Christ,

You wrote:

I'm not so much concerned about the calendar as such, Father, as about the sorry fact that it is a cause of, or else representative of, division within the church. So there's that sorry fact, which is then exacerbated by discussion, argument, schism, etc., over the pros and cons of this calendar, that calendar, etc.


Yes I share your distress over this and other divisive issues within the One Orthodox Church. But we are a step ahead- a big step ahead I think- even to consider that we are both in the One Orthodox Church. For there was a time not so long ago when it was not considered so.

Would that we Orthodox were devoting half as much of our time, energy and commitment to evangelization and works of mercy as to ritualist issues such as the calendar.


I agree that evangelisation and works of mercy are do or die issues for all of us. But we must also learn how to do these things you refer to in regards to each other across the 'great divide'. For myself this meant learning that disagreement- even hearty disagreement- within the Church does not always add up to heresy. And this attitude I have found in my sad experience equally on both sides of the 'great divide' (I have lived now almost equal time on both sides). Thankfully this is now much better than it used to be but it is still something in major need of healing.

Father, have you ever read the essay "Types of Religious Life" by Mother (St.) Maria Skobtsova of Paris, (1891-1945)? I know I'm not alone in recognizing this essay as one of the most significant Orthodox statements of modern times. The older I get, the greater I feel its influence on my prayer and reflection.


I think I have read this but quite awhile ago. I am quite aware of her life though and her sense of Orthodox witness. And it does resonate with me personally since my family which came originally from Odessa in the Ukraine was Jewish. Which means of course in occupied France where Mother Maria lived I or my family could have been one of the ones she rescued.

Another powerful influence on my spiritual life is Father (St.) John of Kronstadt. I believe that the Lord sent him as a prophet to Russia. Had his word been heard and done, Russia's history might well have been very different from the one we know.


Yes he is a wonderful saint with some similarities in sense of social outreach and intensity to Mother Maria. I know what you mean- "if his word had been heard."

It is my experience that the church would much rather serve akathists to these saints than do what they taught, which was a radical commitment to evangelization and kenotic service to "the least of these, our brethren."


Let us though not found our Church life on a negative. We too do the same things, mouthing the words, barely paying attention and barely beginning to lay down our life for Christ and others. It is in seeing this that our love becomes kenotic and we no longer see the other as our enemy. Any shred of self-righeousness is one more brick in the wall between myself and others. Let us therefore take these two saints as models and begin to see our own weakness before God and thus taking up our cross let us love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Christ- Fr Raphael




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