Why is transubstantiation the best route to unity with regard to that sacrament?

I’d like to present one other possibility. If there’s any reason to think it’s not a good possibility, maybe someone can help me with that. If there’s reasons to think transubstantiation is a better option, I’d like to hear those, too.

Here’s how I arrived at an option other than transubstantiation. We want to achieve unity in the Body of Christ, and one of the most important things we can do in order to do this is by getting everyone on the same page with the Eucharist.

There was a time when worldwide Christianity had the kind of unity we’re now looking for. In this specific instance, at least. There was a time when Christians in every part of the world did this the same way.

It’s not that way anymore, though. We’ve lost that unity and have been trying to get it back ever since. There’s the Schism that separates the Catholics and the Orthodox, and there’s the little matter of the Reformation that divides Catholics and Protestants.

So here’s my idea. When you lose something (like unity, for example), the best way to find it is to go back to the last place you had it. The last time we had this kind of unity was…

This might be where I need a little help. Would pre-Schism be a good place to go, or should we go back a few centuries earlier? In my mind, the Schism marks the place where the EO and CC parted ways with regard to formal leadership. But they may begun to drift apart in other matters of faith and/or practice prior to that. I’m not sure exactly where the Eucharist falls on that timeline.

Here’s the point. If you ask me, it’s not too hard to resolve this. Just go back to the last place where everyone was in agreement with each other, look around at what we have now, and see who’s doing the best job of keeping this sacrament according to that standard. I think I might want to refer to that standard as the “last unified sacrament.”

Now, here’s the part you probably won’t like. If you look to the “last unified sacrament” and examine what it looked like in a good amount of detail, it’s not transubstantiation. Transubstantiation “developed” from the original standard into the Western church’s modern teaching. It wouldn’t be quite right to call it a “change,” but it did become more clarified, more precise, less general, etc. Because of this “development,” the modern teaching on transubstantiation is not identical to the standard that was in place when Christianity last enjoyed unity on this teaching.

And here’s the part you really won’t like. If you look at the modern teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it doesn’t seem to have changed at all since the last time all Christians were united on this matter. If you were to re-enact the “last unified sacrament” in one building and perform “an Orthodox mass” in another building, it seems (to me) that the two things are completely identical with regard to the Eucharist.

Personally, I can’t escape the conclusion that the Eastern Orthodox teaching on the Eucharist is the best option that you can look to if you’re serious about sacramental unity. How do you escape that conclusion? What are your reasons for disliking some of the things I said? Did I say anything completely untrue? What would you do differently?

What is it that makes transubstantiation the best option, rather than the eucharistic teaching of the EOC? When you look back on the last time all Christians were able to do this together, which of these teachings most closely resembles that standard? Does this matter to you; why or why not?

Transubstantiation is not one of the things that causes a rift between Catholics and the Orthodox. In fact, one can be Catholic and not fully understand Transubstantiation. One just has to accept that once the bread and wine has been offered and consecrated, it is no longer bread and wine but the Body and Blood of Christ. Whether one uses transubstantiation to believe that, or simply accepts it as a mystery is acceptable.

Because in our limited knowledge and understanding, “transubstantiation” is the best word to help us get even close to the unfathomable miracle which JESUS gives us, " . . this IS MY BODY… this IS MY BLOOD . .".
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

No. You’re hypothesis does not matter to me in the least. Even if your logic wasn’t flawed, it wouldn’t matter to me and I can tell you in one word why I don’t need to waste my mind with futile mental exercises like this one. Faith.

I have never questioned or doubted that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are present at every Catholic Mass because I believe it. That’s all I need and I am extremely happy about that.

One word.

Faith eliminates any reason whatsoever to even consider bothering with exercises like yours.

Can we find a time before the schism (neatly timed as 1054 AD) when we were all in agreement? Weren’t the early œcumenical councils held for that reason? We didn’t all agree on the same thing.

A bit of a harsh response, IMO. Sometimes “exercises” are necessary to help the faithful with understanding. If and when Reunion happens, I don’t think Transubstantiation will be abandoned. As a previous poster said, Catholics don’t have to understand it for it to be legit. Transubstantiation was a clarification, and further exposition on the Eucharist due to certain issues the Western Church was facing. I suspect Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would/should look on it as a development in the specific tradition of the Sui Juris Roman Church. The Orthodox believe in the Eucharist just the same as Catholics. I don’t believe it would be absolutely necessary for them to adopt transubstantiation, because they aren’t denying the truth of the Eucharist. Just my take.
God Bless,
Pakesh

p.s. Welcome to the forums:)

I should’ve included this in my previous post…But oh well, feeling lazy at the moment;)
I don’t think, necessarily, that Transubstantiation should be forced down the throat of the Orthodox. I think the issue is the Orthodox wonder why the Roman Church had to expound so much on the issue. As mentioned earlier, Transubstantiation was a response to what the Western Church was combating.
Now, I don’t think that denying Transubstantiation is correct either. It developed in the Western Church’s unique theological thought-which is the ultimate crux I believe.

Now Matthew brings up the councils to point out how the Church settled big doctrinal issues. Eastern (Greek) theology is different that Latin. Latin tends to be very juridical, and Greek Apophatic. Really, two sides of the same coin. In a reunified Church, there will be room for the differences in Tradition and expression. The Latin Church would maintain Transubstantiation, and the East would maintain their Tradition. Both are valid.
God Bless,
Pakesh

Catholics and Orthodox are not separated on the Eucharist. Good luck with the Protestants though.

Perhaps the OP could clarify what exactly he thinks the orthodox teach on the Eucharist, and (if necessary) how it differs from what he thinks the Catholic Church teaches?

I lightly come lightly go.


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Exactly.

Because Orthodox believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The difference is instead of defining the change, the Orthodox are content with accepting the miracle as “a Mystery”.

Take this with text from Early Church Fathers back to the first century and you will realize it’s not the Orthodox nor the Roman Catholics that need to change their view of the Eucharist. “You won’t like this part”, but the Protestants have it wrong.

A few responses and follow-up questions…

@Spirithound- I don’t expect the Protestants to get on board with anything remotely similar to this. I don’t think Protestantism could make this kind of change without altering the nature of the movement as a whole. Protestantism would have to become something entirely different in the process.
I do think Catholicism could handle this kind of change from where it currently stands, though, but it would be couched in terms like “development.” It’s done so in the past; it could do it again. And the Orthodox are probably in a situation where they could make their doctrine identical to Catholic doctrine, but they won’t because they never change (or develop) anything. That’s how they roll.

@Pakesh- Thanks for the welcome, and let’s say there was a more-than-sister-church re-unification of the East and West that preserves the unique doctrines on the Eucharist. I assume you’d show up for the West-style mass, which is also characterized by doctrine that is more juridical in nature. What makes that preferable to you? Do you show up at that one simply because you were born in the West, or do you weigh the options and make a decision? I also assume that you could show up at either one if you wish, as they are both valid.
I should probably clarify a bit. I’m not asking you to demonstrate that the Orthodox have it wrong and you have it right. This is a situation where I’m aware of reasons that the Orthodox prefer what they do, but I don’t know what kind of reasons you have to prefer what you do.

@Azurestone- are you trying to bait me in post #10? It sure seems like it. Please don’t. It’s not nice to do that to newbies on their first post.
It is interesting that you’re in between Orthodox and Catholic, though. Where are you coming from, and in which direction are you going? I might be really curious about you, depending on what you’re doing.

@SimonDodd- “What the Orthodox teach on the Eucharist” is that the elements are mystically consecrated by the Holy Spirit, such that they become the “true body and true blood” of Christ. “Real presence,” “symbolical,” and “mystical” are used to describe it. Phrases like “spiritual and bloodless sacrifice” are lifted from the ECF’s.
Catholic doctrine owes a lot more to a 9th-century monk named Radbertus. It’s more specific, more juridical, emphasizes “mystery” less, and is less ancient. It’s also something that became popular in the West by the end of the early middle ages, but not the East.

Something that still doesn’t make complete sense to me is the sort of Catholic who doesn’t know any Latin but is willing to go far out of their way to attend the TLM, simply because it makes them feel connected to something very ancient. Actually, that makes perfect sense so far. What doesn’t make as much sense to me is their preference for 9th-century Eucharistic doctrine instead of the 1st-century stuff, while at the same time being very dissatisfied with a Mass that’s done in their own language. I don’t get that. It seems inconsistent to me. I have some ideas, but nothing for sure. As of right now, there’s certain Catholics with preferences that I do not fully understand.

The post was admittedly antagonistic. I was put off by your language calling for change of others when you appeared less than knowledgeable about the topic raised. However, is was not meant to bait anyone.

I was baptized and raised in a high church Episcopalian (Anglican) church supplemented with Catholic education. Into my college years I started “thirsting for God”. I realized there the growing failings of the Episcopal church and had a falling away. Recently, I have once again started having that “thirst for God” and after the last couple years of researching everything out there, I have found best historical, rational and spiritual fulfillment in either the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics.

That being said, I am still in limbo as to where I should be. In short, I feel the Orthodox to have the most readily stomachible theology. However, I also find purpose in the papacy. Though admittedly not in the more ‘recent’ papal infallibility definition. Therefore, I have left it to prayer and God.

The west and east are two different cultural expression of (mostly) the same faith. The west has always had a culture of laws and scholasticism. The east however is more accepting of pure mysticism. Therefore, the east is more accepting of an undefined eucharistic mystery. Also, unlike the west, the east is unwilling to define the faith further.

Sorry for questioning your intent. What you said about Protestantism (though permissible for you) seemed like the kind of thing that I would not be permitted to say of Catholicism on this forum. That’s why it looked like bait to me.

I was baptized and raised in a high church Episcopalian (Anglican) church supplemented with Catholic education.

Oh! High church Anglican. I used to know something about how the Eucharist is done there. That’s a lot like transubstantiation, right? There’s a different word for it- I think it starts with m. I can’t think of it right now.

Into my college years I started “thirsting for God”. I realized there the growing failings of the Episcopal church and had a falling away.

Was that thirst ever satisfied in such a way that God indwelt you, transformed you, and took up residence within you?

Recently, I have once again started having that “thirst for God” and after the last couple years of researching everything out there, I have found best historical, rational and spiritual fulfillment in either the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics.

About a week ago, the Pope (plus almost all the bishops) met with the Orthodox bishops (again, almost all of them) for a conference/meeting thing that lasted close to a week. I think it was in Vienna this year- it’s the 12th meeting. They were discussing terms of full re-unification, exploring (with great precision) the way they regard the papacy prior to the Schism, and looking at what they can do in the short-term that makes some progress but falls short of full re-unification. I think they decided that a “sister church” arrangement is possible, but it’s not a for-sure deal. Of the things still separating them, I think one of the biggest was the issues of papal supremacy and synodality, especially looking at how it was in the first millennium. They worked on revisions of a thing they did at the 10th meeting but decided it still needs more work.

You might want to look at that stuff; I think it’ll be interesting for you.
eirenikon.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/catholic-orthodox-commission-statement/
eirenikon.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/the-role-of-the-bishop-of-rome-in-the-communion-of-the-church-in-the-first-millennium/
chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1341814?eng=y
ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=106465

That being said, I am still in limbo as to where I should be. In short, I feel the Orthodox to have the most readily stomachible theology. However, I also find purpose in the papacy. Though admittedly not in the more ‘recent’ papal infallibility definition. Therefore, I have left it to prayer and God.

I hope it works out for you. And if you aren’t following these ecumenical things at all, maybe they’ll help a little.

Links 2 and 3 are near-duplicates, but Link 2 has some fun comments at the end.

The west and east are two different cultural expression of (mostly) the same faith. The west has always had a culture of laws and scholasticism. The east however is more accepting of pure mysticism. Therefore, the east is more accepting of an undefined eucharistic mystery. Also, unlike the west, the east is unwilling to define the faith further.

I’ve talked to Orthodox Christians about the issue of “defining the faith further” more than I’ve talked to Catholics. So I know the basic objections to it- your faith ceases to be identical to the way it was at first, you could call the finished product less ancient, and an Orthodox Christian would probably say it’s not the best way to preserve the faith. I’m fairly familiar with those kinds of objections, but I’m not as familiar with the upside of development. I guess that’s what I’m looking for.

The one thing I’ve seen so far is that the development- most of the time- is in response to some kind of challenge to a doctrine. That tells me why it usually happens, but I still don’t know why anyone would think that’s the right way to go. Speaking as a pragmatist (which is what I try to be most of the time), the Catholic Church has had one Catholic Reformation and one Protestant Reformation since the Schism. The EOC hasn’t needed any kind of reformation, and while there’s a variety of factors that contribute to their unique histories, it doesn’t exactly give me a reason to think “development in response to opposition” is the preferable option. At the very least, it makes me think the “defense of ancient doctrine without development” is something that works.

That’s my generalized thing with development. I’m not familiar with reasons to think it’s preferable. But this thread is more specific to the development of Eucharistic doctrine. Although when that development began, it was prior to the Schism, so it might have more to do with an East-West relationship than the current CC-EOC division. Maybe, anyway. That might affect the way in which questions of authority are tied to the issue.

Hey! I’m glad this thread is continuing. I hope I can answer your questions :slight_smile: First, as I understand your premise, we must assume a full reunification has happened. Speaking in that hypothetical, I will do my best to answer your questions. Your first assumption is correct. As a Roman Catholic, I would continue to be a Roman Catholic and go to the Roman Liturgy (aka the “Mass”). Now, as to what makes that preferable. Well, I have been a Roman Catholic for 30+ yrs. I attended Catholic School K through 12th grade, and I am comfortable and knowledgeable about the faith (although not nearly as knowledgeable as some of my fellow posters;)) For the past six years or so, I have delved into Eastern Christianity (Orthodox/Catholic) and have a ton of books on Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism. So many in fact, I have not yet read all of them. I’ve really grown to appreciate and love the Eastern approach to Theology, Liturgy, etc. That being said, I feel my home is the Latin Church. It’s what I grew up in, what I am intimately familiar with, and the juridical approach fits the way I think (I’m a math/science kinda guy).

You are also correct that I could go to any Eastern Catholic Church if I wanted too. I suppose in out hypothetical case of reunification, I would be able to go to any Eastern Church. But, switching one’s canonical enrollment isn’t too easy, and shouldn’t be just because one likes the Divine Liturgy more than the Latin Mass. In short, I feel my spiritual home is the Roman Church. But, I often like to read the Eastern Theological point of view so I can get a truly universal feel. To me, they really are complementary.

Finally, as far as Transubstantiation is concerned, I grew up learning about it, I understand the need for it as it arose specifically in the West, and I have no problem with me or anyone approaching the Eucharist with Transubstantiation or without it (assuming the Real Presence isn’t denied). However, I do have a problem if people say Transubstantiation is “wrong” or isn’t valid. I also have a problem if people say it’s necessary for the Eastern Churches to adopt it. I hope that all made sense. I can easily lose my train of thought when posting.:o
God Bless,
Pakesh

“What the Orthodox teach on the Eucharist” is that the elements are mystically consecrated by the Holy Spirit, such that they become the “true body and true blood” of Christ. “Real presence,” “symbolical,” and “mystical” are used to describe it. Phrases like “spiritual and bloodless sacrifice” are lifted from the ECF’s.

Catholic doctrine owes a lot more to a 9th-century monk named Radbertus. It’s more specific, more juridical, emphasizes “mystery” less, and is less ancient. It’s also something that became popular in the West by the end of the early middle ages, but not the East.
[/quote]

That’s why I asked, because I think your premise is mistaken. Didn’t the Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem (A.D. 1673) teach that “after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transubstantiated, converted, and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, … and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, which, as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world”? And that “after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remaineth the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord under the species and form of bread and wine, that is to say, under the accidents of the bread [and wine]”? See F.G. Cole, Mother of All Churches 51 (1908).

Thanks for replying. Sorry it took me awhile to follow up with this.

First, as I understand your premise, we must assume a full reunification has happened

I don’t know that it’ll happen in my lifetime, but I guess I decided that even if it doesn’t, it’s not too soon to ask some questions about what will happen and how it will be.

It didn’t really occur to me that a re-unified church might allow for two kinds of Eucharistic doctrine, even in the short term. That might be possible. I don’t really know. There’s different practices within Catholicism, but this is an issue of doctrine, not practice. Going into this, I assumed that a reunified East and West would have to hammer out a common doctrine on sacraments in general, and especially on the Eucharist. It would be one thing if reunification allowed for a difference in the kind of bread that’s used, but I think I’m still questioning the idea of different doctrines.

If I stick with that assumption, the predicted course of action that currently makes the most sense to me is one where the “how” of the Eucharistic miracle gets a little more mystical and a little less specific in order to accommodate a significantly larger tent under which Catholic Christians sit together. I’m sure this wouldn’t involve a word-for-word adoption of Eastern Orthodox doctrine, but it seems like it would move in that direction- and in the process, it would become more similar to Eucharistic doctrine prior to the 9th century.

If any of that is relatively close to the truth, I wind up wondering why Catholic Christians prefer a more specific, less mystical kind of doctrine to the kind of thing you see in the East. Additionally, there’s this: if the East and the West were currently attempting to form a common Eucharistic doctrine, I can see why the bishops of the East would ask the bishops of the West to move a bit more in their direction. But what reason would the Western bishops give for the East to move in their direction?

Of course, this whole thing is completely moot if a two-doctrine system is a viable long-term possibility. That’s a whole lot easier, but I don’t know if it’s possible.

Speaking in that hypothetical, I will do my best to answer your questions. Your first assumption is correct. As a Roman Catholic, I would continue to be a Roman Catholic and go to the Roman Liturgy (aka the “Mass”). Now, as to what makes that preferable. Well, I have been a Roman Catholic for 30+ yrs. I attended Catholic School K through 12th grade, and I am comfortable and knowledgeable about the faith (although not nearly as knowledgeable as some of my fellow posters;))

Thank you for that.

For the past six years or so, I have delved into Eastern Christianity (Orthodox/Catholic) and have a ton of books on Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism. So many in fact, I have not yet read all of them. I’ve really grown to appreciate and love the Eastern approach to Theology, Liturgy, etc. That being said, I feel my home is the Latin Church. It’s what I grew up in, what I am intimately familiar with, and the juridical approach fits the way I think (I’m a math/science kinda guy).

This might explain why the Eastern approach fits me a little better. I wound up loving history and becoming a psychology/philosophy/theology kinda guy. I didn’t ever start disliking math or science, but I haven’t done nearly as much with it lately.

You are also correct that I could go to any Eastern Catholic Church if I wanted too. I suppose in out hypothetical case of reunification, I would be able to go to any Eastern Church. But, switching one’s canonical enrollment isn’t too easy, and shouldn’t be just because one likes the Divine Liturgy more than the Latin Mass.

Ohhhh. Good point. I hadn’t even thought about what would happen with the canon.

In short, I feel my spiritual home is the Roman Church. But, I often like to read the Eastern Theological point of view so I can get a truly universal feel. To me, they really are complementary.

I like your perspective. I think it’s the kind that helps lead to unity.

Finally, as far as Transubstantiation is concerned, I grew up learning about it, I understand the need for it as it arose specifically in the West, and I have no problem with me or anyone approaching the Eucharist with Transubstantiation or without it (assuming the Real Presence isn’t denied).

That’s very helpful. I was wondering if some Catholics would approach the prospect of full unity with that kind of attitude toward this sacrament, but I couldn’t quite find a good way to ask the question. What I’m still wondering, though, is whether or not it’s possible for the doctrine of transubstantiation to actually be optional in a reunified church. If it were optional, wouldn’t it cease to be a doctrine?

However, I do have a problem if people say Transubstantiation is “wrong” or isn’t valid.

Quite understandable.

I also have a problem if people say it’s necessary for the Eastern Churches to adopt it.

I bet they’ll have something to say about that, too. :slight_smile:

I hope that all made sense. I can easily lose my train of thought when posting.:o
God Bless,
Pakesh

Thank you; it did make sense and helped me do a better job of putting some other questions together, too.

The East and West probably are closer in doctrine than I made them look there. In my defense, though, what I wrote was partially in response to a request for the things that make the East and West different from each other. It would be good to talk about some of the similarities and overlap of the two traditions, but I wasn’t responding to a request for anything like that.

While the EOC accepts as dogma only the teaching of ecumenical councils, the Council of Jerusalem was about as important as Trent to Catholicism and it essentially equates the terms μετουσίωσις and transubstantiation. So while it does fall short of dogma, and while μετουσίωσις doesn’t appear in the Divine Liturgy, and while an additional quote from the same source makes an important clarification…

“Further, we believe that by the word “transubstantiation” the manner is not explained, by which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, — for that is altogether incomprehensible and impossible, except by God Himself, and those who imagine to do so are involved in ignorance and impiety, — but that the bread and the wine are after the consecration, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, nor by the communication or the presence of the Divinity alone of the Only-begotten, transmuted into the Body and Blood of the Lord”

…emphasis mine…

Despite these qualifiers, this does provide a good starting point from which common ground could potentially be reached. There is something from the Catechism that helps in the same way, as well. From para. 1333:

“At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread. . . .” “He took the cup filled with wine. . . .” The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; [emphasis mine] they continue also to signify the goodness of creation.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is taught in a mystical way as it is in the East. But it helps, and if there ever is a time when the East and the West reunite and (potentially?) have to work out a common doctrine, pare. 1333 provides a decent starting point as well.

CH,
The gap between Orthodoxy and Catholicism (jointly “the apostolic churches”) on this issue seems trivial compared to the yawning chasm between the apostolic churches, who take Christ at his word, and the “Bible churches” (i.e. the various flavors of protestantism) who typically deny the real presence.

If your point is that the east is happy to just call it a mystery and be done with it, while the west has an excessive inclination to engage in curious speculation about the details of how it happens, then I’m personally inclined to agree with you. Nevertheless, I would be surprised if the eucharist was a stumbling block to any Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement. The biggest stumbling block is disagreement on fundamental points of doctrine that won’t be reconciled this side of the second coming. What still divides the apostolic churches from one another (as you alluded to in referring to ecumenical councils) is the same thing that divides them from the Bible churches (cf. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958)): the question of authority.

From a Catholic perspective, it occurs to me that all heretical positions, regardless of how many individual heresies they comprise, necessarily rest on the foundation of what we might call the cardinal heresy: the denial of the hierarchical and magisterial authority of the Church. If you accept the magisterium and papal primacy, then more or less by definition, you cannot be a heretic (at least as the Catholic Church understands that term). And it was on this cardinal heresy that the Great Schism turned.

The textbooks tend to focus on the garnish; trifling stuff about the filioque and Card. Humbert’s personal pique. But the filioque argument wasn’t the meat of the dispute. The theological question of whence the holy spirit proceeds is, to be quite frank about it, a sham. The real issue was always power. It was about the facts that the creed composed at Nicea and Constantinople lacked the filioque clause, that Rome added it unilaterally, and the question of whether Rome had the authority to do that.

The Catholic answer is yes. The independence of the Orthodox churches is founded on answering “no.” Thus, in order to reunite, the Orthodox would have to recant a heresy that is central to their identity. And from the Orthodox perspective, I suppose it looks about the same way, with the poles reversed: In order for Rome to reunite with the Orthodox churches, she would have to recant the “heresy” (as they presumably see it) of Roman primacy, a claim that is central to its identity.

I find it unimaginable that either side is going to budge on these fundamental issues, which really makes questions about transubstantiation moot, except for purposes of presenting a united witness to the error of the Bible churches.

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