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Our Lady’s Role in the Resurrection

“The tradition of the Church has always upheld, in spite of minimizing responses to this question that one might come across, that our Lord appeared to his mother in his resurrection. It almost goes without saying, because of course she is the place and the person of his incarnation and the annunciation. And she stood at and she initiated his ministry with the wedding at Cana and the miracle at Cana, which she works in view of his hour, which he seems to be hastening in response to her request.

“And then she’s standing at the foot of the cross and then she’s at Pentecost praying with the first Church, first Christian Church. And so of course, our Lord appeared to her in his resurrection. So there’s no reason to say that for that she would be intimately involved with all those mysteries of the faith, but for some reason just had been shunted aside for his resurrection. There’s a deeper meaning for it.” -Fr. Hugh Barbour


Cy Kellett:
Hello and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett, your host, and today we discuss Mary’s role in the resurrection with our good friend, Father Hugh Barbour. Hello Father.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:
Hello. Hello. Happy Easter.

Cy:
Well thank you very much. Happy Easter, Father.

Fr. Hugh:
And keep saying that for 50 whole days.

Cy:
I know, right? Just keep saying it because There’s something about it. We’re a culture of days. Like Christmas is a day, Easter is a day. But that’s not very Catholic.

Fr. Hugh:
No, no it isn’t. And as people used to say about another activity, which now they’d even do online, it’s always Easter somewhere. So let’s celebrate our gratitude to the lord.

Cy:
Well, let me ask you about our lady Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother of God, what happens to her? Because unless I am missing something, she is very, very present at the foot of the cross, plays a prominent role there. And then as things continue, we don’t see her again until must be Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. I don’t want to assume Mary has no role in the resurrection, but why is it an invisible role?

Fr. Hugh:
Well, the tradition of the church has always upheld in spite of minimizing responses to this question that one might come across, that our Lord appeared to his mother in his resurrection. It almost goes without saying because of course she is the place and the person of his incarnation and the annunciation. And she stood at and she initiated his ministry with the wedding at Cana and the miracle at Cana, which she works in view of his hour, which he seems to be hastening in response to her request.

And then she’s standing at the foot of the cross and then she’s at Pentecost praying with the first church, first Christian Church. And so of course, our Lord appeared to her in his resurrection. So there’s no reason to say that for that she would be intimately involved with all those mysteries of the faith, but for some reason just had been shunted aside for his resurrection. There’s a deeper meaning for it.

And that’s simply that she is not one of those that our Lord called to be a witness to his resurrection because in a certain sense, she’s so intimately connected with his body and his life and death, that she’s more like a participant than just simply a witness. The fathers of the church saw this because and so does Saint John the evangelist and Saint Luke, the evangelists who are the two evangelists closest to Mary.

Notice they say that they laid him in a tomb in which a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid, okay? And of course the fathers of the church see this very close connection between our Lord’s virginal birth coming forth from the womb of his mother without violating her virginity by a miracle. A miracle which foreshadowed the properties of his risen body is our Lord, as we know, he left the tomb before the stone was rolled back in spite of what you see in some works of art.

And of course he comes to the apostles in the upper room. He comes when the doors are locked, that is his body’s not subject by his divine power, by his glory to the constraints of bodily extension and space and all of that. And so our Lord comes forth from the tomb as he came forth from the womb of his mother, by a miracle of his almighty power in the glory of his risen body.

And so our lady’s owned body is a symbol of that burial and then resurrection for our salvation. Because our Lord’s burial is a very important event in the history of salvation because that’s the moment, if you can call it that, when he liberates from their expectation and their long waiting, all the just to ever lived before him from Adam and Eve through Abel, all the way up until Saint Joseph and everybody who died right before our Lord, died on the cross for us.

So it’s a very major event. In fact, it’s an earthquake event. That’s why the earth quaked. And in the symbolism of the scriptures in the miracles wrought by God’s power. And so consequently, our lady is so intimately connected with resurrection, that she was always felt to be, as I say, more a participant than simply a witness.

And because she not only witnessed our Lord’s resurrection or could be a witness to it, but she actually is a necessary condition for that. And that means his whole life from the incarnation until his ascension into heaven and ascending of his spirit. And of course we’ll see at the end of time, too when the church is a bride is reunited to the savior and of which the chief image and the scripture is shown in apocalypse 12 is this mother who even though she gave birth to him without pain in her virginal birth, she labors to bring forth children in Holy church should the suffering and perseverance of his members, members of his mystical body.

So the tradition has always up to our lady’s being greeted by our Lord or our Lord appearing to her after his resurrection, or even at the moment of, we don’t know where she was or when she was there. But it seems reasonable to assume that she would be the first to whom he would appear.

I mean our Lord obeyed the commandments and he honored his mother before anyone else on Earth. And so it makes sense that he would observe the 4th commandment and greet her first before everybody else. That just goes to prove to show. Yeah.

Cy:
Well, let me ask you about her then if I could be. Between the time of his death on the cross and the moment of greeting him again in the resurrection. Straighten me out if my impression of what the scripture is conveying to us is wrong. But Jesus has foretold his death and resurrection and his disciples and apostles have not really gotten it.

Would it be fair to say that she did get it? She knew that he was predicting his death, but she also knew he was predicting his resurrection. And so she is waiting for him. She’s not kind of dissipated the way that they are by his death. She’s kind of in a state of, “Well, he’s coming back on Sunday.”

Fr. Hugh:
Well, but it’s an intensification of her faith, yes. She always knew he would rise, never doubted it and didn’t waiver like the apostles did. And then notice those saints that were closest to her are the ones that wavered the least, Mary Magdalene and Saint John.

Cy:
Right.

Fr. Hugh:
And that’s very evident as well, even though they both have their moments. But that’s because they’re so overwhelmed by the possibility that this was actually happening. And of course then it was brought to their minds again. As our Lord with the disciples on the road to Emmaus had to go through the scriptures and the Psalms and prophets to explain how the Christ had to suffer. And so enter into his glory, all of that. But somebody might be listening going, “But does the church really teach that? Do we have to believe that Jesus appeared to Mary?”

Well, it’s like saying, “Well, do we have to believe she made him dinner every night?” I mean, come on. We’re Catholics. Okay. So it’s not an issue for us. We’re not trying to be minimalistic about it or act like it’s a scandal to say that our Lord showed special favor to his mother. Because it might upset a Calvinist or Baptist or former Calvinist, or former Baptist, whatever that is. It’s part of our tradition.

And so John Paul II to remove all doubts if you want, I have a text, John Paul II’s general audience of 21st May 1997, Easter of 1997 in his catechesis on the creed, he has a whole talk entitled Mary Was Witness to the Whole Paschal Mystery in which he very clearly asserts and gives all the sound reasonings for our Lord’s appearing to our lady first among his followers after his resurrection from the dead. And he’s very, very explicit about it. So I recommend that it’s on the Vatican website.

You can find that general audience of Wednesday, 21st May 1997 John Paul II, Mary Was Witness to Whole the Paschal Mystery. So take a look. It’s a very beautiful and very deep. The gospel says that our Lord did more. If everything that the Lord did and said was to be recorded, all the books in the world would not suffice to contain it. So there a lot of things that are not found directly in the gospel accounts that actually happened.

Cy:
But it is to some degree, there’s a matter of taking what we know about Mary, taking what we know about Jesus. For example, you use the example of the fact that of course he would follow the commandments and of course the commandment to honor your father and mother. He never dismisses himself from that commandment.

But what I mean is there’s a kind of act of extrapolation that goes on. I find it perfectly reasonable to do these acts of extrapolation that well, this must have happened or this is the likely thing to have happened even if the scripture doesn’t explicitly say it. But it is a notable, as you said from the beginning that scripture does not mention her between the time of his death on the cross and Pentecost.

Fr. Hugh:
Yeah, although there is a tradition, the Greek tradition, especially a little later on and a Greek theologian like Saint Gregory Palamas and his sermons on the most Virgin, he holds that the “other Mary” that’s referred to in the gospel accounts is actually our lady. And he says the reason for that is that I was just told Mary Magdalene not to touch him. And then when she’s in the company of these other Holy women and the other Mary, she’s allowed to bow down and grasp his feet. And so he says that’s because our lady was there.

So there is a little bit of a tradition that the Ava Maria, the other Mary was our lady and that the emphasis was on not on her presence so much as the presence of the accredited witnesses. Pope John Paul II makes a good point that the gospels were written in order to give a credible account. And a lot of people reading it might say, “Well of course his mother’s mother back the story up, you know?” He said that’s one reason why she wasn’t taken as the official witness.

Cy:
I see. And this may be a further act of extrapolation, but also exit Jesus. What do you take to have been her role among the apostles and disciples and it’s interesting what you said about John and Mary Magdalene. That in a certain sense, she seems to have a confirming role. Like don’t despair now, but her role during those days when he’s in the tomb and then her role in the days immediately after that. What would you take to be her role there?

Fr. Hugh:
Yeah and I’ll come back to your extrapolation point too because that was very good. But I’ll answer this one right now. It’s very simple if we just think of our lady’s role as being … and confirming is a good word to use. It’s a very good description is like the role of the church herself. That is Mary is the context, the guarantee, the consoling presence, the guide, the intercessor, the place of refuge, the teacher of the children that is a domestic teacher.

She’s all those things for us in our spiritual life as she was for the apostles. That is, she’s the mainstay of the first church and Pentecost. That’s why it says, “With the disciples of Jesus, with Mary, his mother, they persevered in prayer.” And that’s a very important point because her presence is what gave them the power through her intercession, her merits and her union with her son now in the glory of the father’s right hand to be disposed to receive and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Her influence is well nigh I would say universal. In fact, it is universal. It’s not well nigh universal it is universal in terms of the life of the church and her presence there is a continuous one. But it’s not the presence of a hierarchical office in the church. She’s not possessed a sacred order. She belongs to a category all of her own the category which theologians call the hypostatic, the category of the hypostatic union, namely, that’s the fancy theological term for God’s becoming man.

She’s the context for us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. So she’s the place, the instrument and the light under which we understand what I would’ve accomplished first and here and then in us.

Cy:
So there’s a little bit of reflection in there on her continuing role in the church. Is it again, outside of that kind of almost governmental arrangement that Jesus has made with popes and bishops and all that. This is the governing teaching authority. She stands not in that, I don’t know if you would call it a chain of command. She stands to the side of it.

Fr. Hugh:
Well, the fathers called her the term they used that sometimes said that she has the omnipotence of supplication. That is she can do and does even more than the hierarchy does or the priesthood does. But she does so by way of her supplication and her close personal union with Jesus and not in virtue of an office. It’s a very warm thing.

It’s as though our Lord doesn’t want to depart from the original model, which he gave with our first parents of all graces flowing from a family connection. And so there it is, her intercession and her role is based upon her intense union with Christ, which is not only a moral union of her holiness, but also that he’s very much definitely flesh of her flesh and of her bone. In a reversal you might say, of what happened with our first parents.

So it’s hard. It’s practically impossible to exaggerate her presence and power in this mystery. And that of course might disturb certain people, but the fact is we’ve been warned by the saints not to be timorous or hesitant or anxious in our devotion to her. But rather to be generous and assert as much as our tradition permits us to assert.

And that’s a very great deal to say that someone is the mother of God, made man and made man of her is to say an awful lot about every other aspect of her life, including her making dinner. Which we don’t have to believe of course, because it wasn’t defined dogmatically so we don’t have [crosstalk 00:15:38] document pointing that out. So maybe we don’t have to believe it.

We mustn’t approach the church’s tradition with suspicion or as though we only assert things that can be found in chapter and verse. Most of the things that are asserted ministerially are things that are contested or questioned. Not all of them, but many of them or most of them come in that context. And it never occurred to anybody to question our Lord’s appearance to our lady.

And that’s in all the liturgies, some the Oriental liturgies, it’s in the Roman liturgy. And so of course there wasn’t necessarily a statement until John Paul II because of course he knew in our current context that we do have to reassert these things because they are called into question.

Cy:
Right. So right. So I believe I’m being a reasonable thomists if I say that the thing-

Fr. Hugh:
Is there any other kind?

Cy:
Well, yeah there’s reasonable and bad. Those are the two types of thomists.

Fr. Hugh:
Yeah. Well, okay. Yeah that’s good.

Cy:
But the thing is received after the manner of the receiver so that Peter welcoming Christ risen as beautiful as it is, is not the same as Mary welcoming Christ risen. In a certain sense you almost I would want to say it’s not within our capacity to imagine really because we’re smaller than both of the characters involved. So much smaller.

He him in the order of nature, her in the order of grace that what the meeting between the two of them is like must be really beyond words, the kind of words that we have.

Fr. Hugh:
Oh absolutely. In fact, it’s a mystery that is literally beyond the capacities of human thought or imagination. Because we’re talking about the consummation and the perfection of humanity raised the level of the share and the divine life. And our lady is not God, but all Christians are given a share in the divine life, were made partakers of the divine nature. That’s what Saint Peter says I mean that’s pretty strong.

And in our lady’s case, because she’s the mother of God, the son, her dignity, her union with him as Saint Thomas says, “Touches on the infinite.” It’s not strictly speaking infinite because she’s not God, but let’s just say it utterly exceeds our capacity of expression or understanding. That’s why the liturgy is full of these expressions of how I do not know how to praise the mystery that’s wrought in you O Mary and the constant congratulation of her.

That’s something which goes beyond the warmth and the joy and the relief of the repentant sinner at meeting with the loving risen savior, which of course is Saint Peter. That’s beautiful in itself and that applies to us. But then there’s also because of her and because of him that, that is possible in the first place. So the two things all go together, but let’s just say hers is a particularly intimate sharing that’s hard for us to characterize because it’s simply so great.

Cy:
I mean I suppose there’s a possibility when we talk about her that way to say, well, I mean if she has this intimate relationship with him, she knows what’s happening. There’s no point at which she’s like, “I wonder if he’s not coming back” She know.

Fr. Hugh:
Exactly right. She’d know this. No question. She had an unwavering faith. That’s true, that’s true.

Cy:
I mean, I suppose there’s a way in which we might minimize her suffering then.

Fr. Hugh:
No, because her union with Christ meant that her suffering was more intense than anyone else’s is. Because of course, the greater purity you have the greater moral period you have, the greater your suffering at the sight of human sin and rejection of the love of her son. And that was fully revealed in his passion.

Now granted, he dies and rise of the gloriously and dies no more as Saint Paul says, but the drama of human sin, repentance of human salvation and human loss still continues until the very end. And our lady bore all that in her heart. That’s why Saint Simeon says, “A sword also will pierce your soul to the thoughts of any hearts will be revealed.” She suffered in the passion more intensely than anyone after our Lord himself. And so that’s why we congratulate her at Easter, queen of heaven rejoice.

Because it even says, “He who knew merited to bear.” Well, she didn’t merit her immaculate conception. That was the foreseen merits of her son. But let’s just say that in view of her merits, in suffering along with Christ in his passion, the church even dares to say that she merited to bear God’s son. Now that’s strictly speaking impossible for human creature to merit, to become a principle of a divine person. That is the mother of God.

But that’s impossible because she’s not God, but by God’s power and by this great mystery she did in some mysterious way do something that was commensurate or could be compared to the mystery of the incarnation. And so when we on our lady as mother sorrows or as Mediatrix of grace under her son, of course, of course, we always mean that. We never don’t mean that. We’re coming very close on a mystery that’s as deep and profound as the mystery of God becoming man. And that’s why he says he became man of the Virgin Mary. Always emphasizing that point.

Cy:
Just to go back to Peter as the exemplar of [crosstalk 00:21:36] the rest of us. Yeah, he’s got us in the story. So the resurrection, his encounter with Christ risen, Christ teaching and remaining with them 40 days, Christ’s ascension and then the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These things are transformative for Peter, or are they transformative for Mary in a similar way or is it because she’s not a fallen creature is it not the same?

Fr. Hugh:
Well, let’s say in her compassion for sinners, she shares and Peter’s joy, the joy of his restoration, which of course develops, especially at the point when our Lord appears to them at the Sea of Galilee. And Peter’s restored by this threefold profession of love. But she shares in that because her compassion is not just compassion for suffering, but also a participation and ascending of the joys of serving and loving and following her son.

But in the sense that as long as our lady was living on the Earth, she was continually doing things out of love for God that increased her charity at every moment. So you could say her love for God grew exponentially with each free act of her mind and will. And so her sanctity is increasing in a way, which is, I said, touching on the infinite as she undergoes her compassion with her son and fills that sort of sorrow piercing her heart.

And as she weeps for sinners and prays for them and rejoices when they’re restored, all of that is for her new grace and is completing the work of God in her so that she can be truly the mother of the church, the new Eve, the mother of all the living by sanctifying grace.

Cy:
So if I have my chronology at least somewhat right, they stay in Jerusalem maybe a week or so. They go back to the Galilee. A lot of things happen in Galilee, but they must head back towards Jerusalem at some point because just a few miles outside of Jerusalem, Christ takes them out to Bethany basically for the ascension.Do you think she makes all those travels with them?

Fr. Hugh:
Oh yes. Yeah. I would think so. I don’t see any reason why not. But again, those are things not described in the scriptures. That if he’s commanding them all go to Galilee and there you will see me, it makes sense that she will accompany them. She’s not going to say, “Well, I’m going to stay here in Jerusalem because I’ve already seen him.”

Cy:
I’ve seen him. I’ll let you all catch up.

Fr. Hugh:
Right, right, exactly.

Cy:
Okay. All right. So even though we don’t see her at the ascension, you put her there.

Fr. Hugh:
Oh yeah. I’m going. I mean that’s true. And then the whole tradition of the church is very evident and it’s certainly true in the iconography of the church. She’s always depicted as being there. Why wouldn’t she be? And I can go back to the Protestant objections to devotion to Mary, which are extremely contrary to the spirit of Christianity. I just wanted to point that out.

A Christianity without devotion to Mary is still Christianity because they love Jesus and she wants to include all of those people and her love. But the fact is a Christianity without reverence and devotion to her and recognition of her role is very foreign to the religion reveal by Jesus Christ. Sorry, but it’s true and they do not like it. Her devotion to her is not some sort of optional thing that we’re afraid we’ll scandalize non-Catholics.

And so we minimize it so that they won’t find it hard to take. They need to shed their resistance to this grace, this Marian grace, which is in a sense at the root of our salvation, since he became incarnate of her and by her acceptance of God’s plan, her Fiat, her let it be done unto me according to your word, and her continual prayer with the apostles at the end, we receive all these graces in union with and through intercession and by the work, which accompanies accomplishes along with her son.

So I’d say there’s almost no way to exaggerate it unless you were to say something which is clearly contrary to Christianity, which is that she’s God and she’s not. She’s a creature, but she shows how much God loves his creatures that he gives to them a mother like that and to his son a mother like that, and a salvation, which is such a perfect work after the fall of our first parents.

And so we need to be very clear about that. That doesn’t mean that we’re making fun of or being hard on beyond what’s necessary just to wake people up on those who don’t understand her role or suspicious of it. But we need to pray that they overcome that obstacle because very often that’s one of the main obstacles to being a Catholic Christian when a person is first able to say the Hail Mary, which even Luther said. Lutherans vaguely kept the Hail Mary. So I just point that out.

Even Protestants are very welcome to say the Hail Mary. In fact, they can fulfill Bible prophecy that way because she says, “Behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” So we should just encourage that devotion and not be apologetic about it in the bad sense, but apologetic in the assertive sense that no, this is part of the original revelation given by our Lord as part of being a Christian.

Cy:
And thinking about her in these days of the post-resurrection days up until Pentecost. And you think about that, where the whole church is gathered there, she’s with them, she’s not. You wouldn’t go back to say, “Well, I’m one of those Christians who I want to be like the earliest Christians.” Well, the earliest Christians were walking around with Mary, she was with them the whole time.

Fr. Hugh:
Exactly. And that’s a very good way to put it. And that the great Cardinal Journet who was a great friend of Saint Paul VI and a very important theologian at the time of the council who wrote a very beautiful work on the nature of the church. He gives us one of the possible theological explanations. Well, I guess his explanation of why there was this enormous explosion of grace and charisms in the Jerusalem church and the earliest church beyond in intensity beyond anything seen since.

Because we always are going back to that period to see kind of a model there. And he says, “It’s simply because our lady was still alive and meriting in the church on Earth and she was receiving communion every day.” And he said that, “The explosion of grace in the atmospheric church is due to the sacramental participation of our lady and her intercession.”

And so as in heaven now she intercedes for us, but she no longer grows in charity or increases in merit. That’s for us to do, since we’re still living here in this veil of tears. And we still have that advantage over the saints in heaven as we can still grow in our love for God and merit according to his disposition, whatever he’s prepared for us in terms of our degree of grace and glory.

But she really and truly was the secret to the sanctity and power of the early church as she is the secret to the sanctity and power of the church today as the saints have told us. Saint Louis de Montfort, who especially relates a devotion to our lady with the end times and the [inaudible 00:29:18] sanctity at the most difficult periods of the church’s history.

Cy:
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t want to leave a cliffhanger about her life. In these days that we’re talking about, she’s only a woman in her mid 40s. Rough.

Fr. Hugh:
Yes. Yes.

Cy:
So you said in Jerusalem, then she stays in for some time after this? From the tradition of the church and whatever extrapolations you have to make, what do we know of her life then after this? She is with the church at Pentecost. And then where, what do we know about her after that?

Fr. Hugh:
Of course, she belongs to the household of Saint John, the beloved disciple and so we assume that wherever he was, she was. And even in his exile to Patmos, she may well have been there because exile didn’t mean that you didn’t bring anyone from your household. It just meant you had to stay away from sinners of communication. I mean in the Roman Empire that punishment was for just to keep the person from having any influence basically.

So we assume that she went wherever he went and the tradition has her following. We know he was at Ephesus, he was a Patmos and it’s tradition that they live there at Ephesus together and people visit the shrine of our lady’s house there in Ephesus in Asia Minor called Turkey nowadays. But then the tradition is also that our assumption was in Jerusalem, so they may have gone back and forth.

The apostles did a lot of traveling, but that’s the tradition. The church of her assumption or her mission of the assumption is there, and her tomb before she was assumed into heaven right after she died of course, according to the tradition. That’s all in Jerusalem. But the house where she lived with John is traditionally there in Ephesus. And so that’s what we know.

There are other traditions of our lady going other places during her earthly life before her death, the Monks of Mount Athos say that she managed to visit there with Saint John being put off course in a boat. And so that’s why Mount Athos, the monasteries there are all dedicated to her and it’s called the Garden of the Mother of God. And then there’s the other tradition to Spanish have of her appearing in our mortal body to Saint James Santiago, Saint James the greater in Spain and Zaragoza.

And so they have there the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. But those are parts of popular Catholic tradition that again, obviously they’re not defined parts of the faith, but they’re part of that plentitude of fullness of extrapolation, and experience that form the piety and fuel, the enthusiasm of the faithful.

Cy:
And now she’s the queen of heaven.

Fr. Hugh:
She’s the queen of heaven and she’s right there and you call on her and ask her if she will bring you closer to her son. And if you don’t know what words to say in your prayer, just call on her and she will know just exactly what you need. And so you don’t need to worry too much. If you’re praying right, you can just say the Holy name of Jesus to the Holy name of Mary, ask for her help and that will please him very much and accomplish what needs to be accomplished in your soul.

Cy:
And in this season, you’re very welcome to greet her with queen of heaven rejoice. Your son is risen as he said.

Fr. Hugh:
Hallelujah.

Cy:
Hallelujah. Father, as always, it’s a great pleasure to get to talk with you. I know you give all the caveats and you’re very wise to do so. But this is our faith in the broad sense. Our faith is in Jesus and we find him in that scripture and in the tradition of the church tells us a great deal. And it’s always so much fun to get to listen to it from you. Thank you for doing it with us, Father.

Fr. Hugh:
Thank you. God bless you.

Cy:
God bless you and happy Easter.

Fr. Hugh:
Happy Easter.

Cy:
And thank you and then happy Easter to everybody who joins us here on Catholic Answers Focus. We’re delighted to be welcomed into your car or home, or wherever you listen. Please give us five stars wherever you get your podcasts and help to share the news that Catholic Answers Focus is out there. We’d love to share it with as many people as we can. I’m Cy Kellett, your host, a very and blessed Easter season to you and all of yours. And we’ll see you next time right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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