The Gospel for this Sunday is unusually brief, because for once our attention must be elsewhere, firmly focussed on the reading from Acts. This recounts the powerful experience Christ’s disciples underwent on Shavuot, a Jewish festival that occurs in late spring and commemorates God’s gift of the Ten Commandments.
The Christian festival which arose from that remarkable first-century Shavout is celebrated fifty days after Easter, hence the name ‘Pentecost’. Nowadays it is widely referred to as ‘the Birthday of the Church’. This is not quite right, however. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus founds the Church when he gives Simon the new name of ‘Peter’. Peter, he declares, is ‘the rock on which I will build my Church’. To understand the Day of Pentecost properly, therefore, we have to see it, not as the beginning, but as the development of the Church that Christ had founded in the course of his ministry. Pentecost is a point of transformation. A faithful group of believers was so powerfully inspired by the Holy Spirit, that they became something ‘mystical’, the Body of Christ on earth.
Unhappily, this has often been the reality. Christians have been so divided, so at odds with each other, that the Body of Christ seems fractured with dispute, recrimination, persecution and even slaughter. At many points, both past and present, the glorious commission given to the Apostles has been hidden behind a screen of intolerance, bigotry and narrow mindedness. And yet, the great mystery is, it is to this often fractured Church that God continues to entrust the Gospel. Pentecost, accordingly, should be embraced as an annual opportunity for real spiritual renewal. The image of wind invites us to spread our sails to a Holy Spirit that will blow us out of our spiritual doldrums, and the Pentecostal fire is an invitation to burn away the idols of our past.
The familiarity of this expression can hinder us in appreciating what an extraordinary status this bestows on the Church. It makes it sacred, and thus an institution like no other. When baptized Christians celebrate Pentecost they are claiming an astonishing privilege – to continue God’s incarnation in the world, and be the embodiment and enduring presence of Christ for human kind. By the same token, of course, this sacred status brings an awesome responsibility. When Christians exercise their privilege well, they can indeed be Christ in the world as a focus of hope and veneration. When they exercise it badly, then Jesus Christ becomes an object of the world’s contempt, or loathing or indifference.
How is this renewal to be accomplished? There is guidance in the reading from Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians. It begins by telling us, ‘No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit’. What this means is that, however much we may disagree with other Christians, their sincerity and faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit within them. Certainly, there are important differences, but then, Paul says, that is what we should expect. He writes: ‘There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.’ The lesson he is driving home is not to seek uniformity in belief, or practice or opinion, but to search for and acknowledge the spiritual unity that underlies these differences. Just as a sports team or an orchestra must prize a variety of gifts while being bound by a single underlying spirit, so the Church at Pentecost must rejoice in the single Spirit manifested in all its astonishing variety.
In the very brief Gospel from John, Jesus quotes the prophet Ezekiel ‘Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water’. The celebration of Pentecost is threefold. First it means recognizing that all those who are able to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ are led to do so by the Holy Spirit. Second, it means having a mind sufficiently open to see the living water that has flowed from their lives. Third, it means praying sincerely that such water will continue to flow. When churches are allowed to resume their proper work and worship, this Pentecostal prayer will matter even more.
Modern liturgical practice considers the Sunday following Ascension Day as the last Sunday in the Season of Easter. Accordingly, the Lectionary chooses Bible readings that link the beginning of the season with its close. So the first reading repeats the passage from the opening chapter of Acts that recounts Jesus’ final Resurrection appearance to his disciples before his Ascension.
The Gospel -- from John – takes us back to Holy Week, however. It occurs just after the long ‘Farewell Discourses’ that Jesus addresses to the eleven left in the upper room once Judas Iscariot has fled their celebration of the Passover. He turns his thoughts to God and says, “I am coming to you, Holy Father”, a prayer appropriate to ascension, but uttered when he has the long and arduous path of trial, condemnation and death still to tread. It is striking, though, that it is at this moment, and not the moment of ascension recorded by Luke, that Jesus declares “Now I am no longer in the world”. What can he mean? Even when he has risen from the dead, he appears in Galilee. Doesn’t his departure from ‘the world’ have to wait for Ascension?
At one level it does. The eternal unity of Father and Son is renewed with the Ascension when Jesus visibly ascends from earth to heaven. At another level, however, the mystery that underlies this unity relies upon a proper understanding of the relation between ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’. It is a fact of human experience that ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’, the earthly and the heavenly, are often at war within us. Contrary to what people commonly suppose, this does not mean that the spiritual or heavenly realm is radically divorced from the material or earthly one. Rather, as this week’s Gospel makes it plain, we are not to think of heaven as another world purged of all its imperfections of this one, a place we travel to when we die. On the contrary, as this week’s lesson tells us, Jesus did not come to promise bliss in the future, but “to give eternal life” now. Importantly, the Gospel then adds: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” In other words, eternal life begins not at death, but when we first truly know God in Christ. At that point, the human spirit is offered a new way of living an earthly life that transcends mortality, regardless of when that may come.
We are free, of course, to turn down the offer, and continue in our ordinary ways. What difference does accepting it make?? Part of the answer lies in our own conduct. This week’s Epistle from the First Letter of Peter says “Discipline yourselves, keep alert”. Such advice, however, can only be part of the answer. A lot of the time, as we know very well, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, so that self-centred anxieties continue to dog us. It is precisely at these moments, however, that Peter’s words speak most powerfully to us: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you”.
The real Good News is that ultimately we are not at the mercy of our own efforts which are often misguided and feeble. Jesus is properly called Saviour because, even when we beset by fear, weakness, and ignorance, he loves us in just the way that God loves us. Given the anxieties about public health that currently dominate our lives, this is welcome news. Faith is a two-way relationship. We hold out our hands, but it is God who reaches down to us. We open our hearts, but it is Christ’s saving spirit that enters them. We lose the ability to pray, but the Spirit prays for us, in ‘sighs too deep for words’. And this reassurance, fittingly is the promise of Pentecost, the liturgical season that is just about to come.
Ascension Day is one of the seven principal feasts of the Christian Calendar. This means it is to be ranked on a par with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Yet, while this is the ‘official’ position, Ascension has rarely been accorded the same sort of prominence as the other major feasts, either in the life of the Church or in the practice of individual Christians.
Why has there been this benign neglect? Perhaps it is in part because the event Ascension commemorates -- the heavenly departure of the risen Jesus -- is recorded by only one evangelist, Luke, though he does tell the story twice, first in his Gospel and then in Acts. Perhaps it is because over the centuries, unlike Christmas and Easter, Ascension’s precise location in the Christian year has been subject to local variation. But mainly, I think, it is because the theological significance of the event it celebrates is very hard to separate from the Easter Resurrection and the coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This is reflected in our modern calendar. Previously, Ascension had a season all to itself – the ten days of Ascensiontide with special ceremonies by which it was marked. Now Ascension Day has been swept into the Easter season. Is this a gain, or a loss?
It is a loss if it leads us to miss the theological significance of the period between Ascension Day and Pentecost. These few days are important because they unite us in a rather special way with the first disciples. Peter, John, Andrew and so on, saw Jesus in the flesh. For three years, they were able to walk and talk with him. They watched and listened as he taught and healed and prophesied and challenged his listeners in the course of his ministry. Then, just as his mission was attracting more and more interest, it ground to a halt in apparent failure. The teacher and preacher to whom they had given their lives, was arrested, condemned and executed. To their astonishment, however, they were granted a second opportunity, to be physical witnesses of the Risen Christ, and so to enter again the privileged company of one they now knew to be the Son of God.
No Christians ever since have had the experience that blessed the lives of the Apostles. While they drew on their own experience, we have to rely on their testimony. In the pursuit of our discipleship we must live by faith in a way that those few Galileans did not have to do. They were there, they saw, they heard.
Ascension marks the point at which Jesus finally left them. Having led them out of Jerusalem as far as Bethany, in the very act of blessing them, Luke tells us, he withdrew and was taken ‘out of their sight’. This must have been a critical moment. His departure "from their sight" meant that for the first time, they had to stand firm in their discipleship, without his unique presence to sustain them. It was his Ascension, not his Resurrection, that asked something new of them. Now for the first time they stood on level ground with the rest of us, and were required to prepare themselves for what all Christians must rely upon – the advent of a Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that ‘third person’ of the Trinity who leads us into the eternal life of the Father, whom we do not see, and of the Son, whom we never met.
In the passage from Acts for the sixth Sunday in Easter Paul preaches in front of the Areopagus, a rocky platform beside the Acropolis in Athens. This is a key moment in the history of Christianity, and of the world. Here, two great cultures meet for the first time -- the religion of the Jews and the philosophy of the Greeks.
Athens and Jerusalem are the streams of thought and culture from which all the most important aspects of our civilization take their origin. Both Jew and Greek were passionately concerned to understand how the lives of human beings could be rooted in reality, how they could avoid falling for individual fads and passing fashions, and how best they might be lived in harmony with the whole creation.
When Tertullian, one of the Early Church Fathers, posed his famous question "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" he was giving voice to a doubt about how easily these two ways of thinking could be combined. For the Greeks, the pursuit of wisdom meant gaining knowledge of the way the cosmos was structured and functioned. Their hope, and their faith, was pinned on what we would today call science. For the Jews, by contrast, reality was ultimately personal, a reflection of the will of its divine creator and ruler, and their faith consequently, lay in knowing and following God’s purpose.
The Epistle for this Sunday reveals something about this difference. Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” But the kind of reason he is referring to is not founded in evidence or experiment. Rather, it springs from something more basic, that ‘in your hearts you sanctify Christ as Lord’.
In his speech to the Greeks, Paul is clear about this vital shift of perspective. “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth . . . will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead”. The implication of this is that humanity needs more than scientific knowledge, valuable though this is. At bottom, the ‘Spirit of truth’ to which Jesus refers in the Gospel, is not something impersonal – scientific knowledge -- but something personal -- love for God through Christ. It is only when we grasp this profound insight that our experience of human nature (who we are) and of the human condition (the world in which we have to live) can be fully reconciled.
The world that God has made for us may be studied as a physical and biological system. There is undoubtedly a lot to be learned from studying it that way. But the Christian religion holds that inquiries of this kind cannot sound reality's depths or tell us how best to live. Rather, the world is a cosmic expression of divine love, animated by that love, and inviting a personal response from us.
In the current crisis, our lives have been drastically altered in the name of ‘following the science’. The Church has gone along with that, and laid its public worship aside. But now we are confronted by this question: the impersonal science we are following gives us predictions and death counts. But does it give us reason for the hope that we have? Actually, does it give us hope at all? Might it be that Jesus is calling us to proclaim afresh “the Spirit of truth, whom the world (especially in its current state of anxiety) cannot receive”?
In this week’s Gospel, the disciple Thomas says to Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" The reply he receives is famous: "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”. The other readings show how, thanks to the Apostles’ preaching, this message could also speak powerfully to people who had not themselves followed Jesus of Nazareth, or witnessed his mysterious post-Resurrection appearances.
The passage from Acts is especially compelling in this respect. It is a very truncated version of the story of Stephen, a man held in such high regard by the early Christians that he was elected to the new office of deacon, a person entrusted with special responsibilities for the welfare of the fledgling Church. One day, as the price of this trust, Stephen faced a much greater, and far more difficult call – to be the first in a long line of Christian martyrs.
‘Martyr’ does not mean ‘victim’, as it is often taken to mean in modern English. It means ‘witness’. Stephen had found his salvation in Christ. Jesus was for him THE way, THE truth and THE life. Accordingly, his pre-eminent task was to witness to this fact, to “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”, as the Epistle for this week puts it. Christian witness of this kind was not merely a duty, but a sacred privilege that could transcend even martyrdom. In death, Stephen remained what through Christ’s Cross he had become in life, one of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people”.
Nowadays, we find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between martyrs and fanatics, and the ideology of multiculturalism pressures us to say that Jesus is just one way, not the way. This is certainly a more comfortable message for contemporary Christians to affirm, but it is not what these Bible readings actually say. The Gospel asks the disciples this question, and asks it of us also: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" Living in the world that we live in, how are we to respond ?
We know what membership of the Church meant to Stephen. What does it mean to us? Is it a matter of belonging to a welcoming group whose social life we enjoy, and whose 'good causes' we endorse? In that case, we will commit a few Sundays a month to it, and join in its community activities at other times as well. Or is it something much deeper than this – the privilege of belonging to a ‘royal priesthood’ called 'out of darkness into light' by the saving work of God in Christ? If it is the second, this will be shown in our willingness to sacrifice a very great deal for it -- time and money, certainly, but also popularity, social approval and conventional wisdom, if that's what witnessing requires,. This falls far short of what was required of Stephen, and yet, surrounded as we are by a secular society, sacrifices like these often prove too difficult, a test, in fact, that we are quite likely to fail.
The 4th Sunday in Easter is always “Good Shepherd” Sunday, so called because the appointed Psalm is the 23rd – ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’.
Under normal circumstances, many churches underline the theme by choosing “shepherd” hymns for this Sunday’s worship -- often metrical versions of Psalm 23. In the three years of the lectionary cycle, the Gospel passage for Easter 4 is always from John. Each year differs slightly, but never fails to include Jesus’ application of the metaphor of the shepherd to himself. This year John tells us that “Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them”. If his hearers did not understand, how much harder must it be for us who live in a highly urbanized world? In New Testament times, shepherds were a familiar sight. Today, even in rural areas, shepherds are few and far between.
Despite this, thanks to the enduring popularity of the 23rd Psalm, the language of sheep and shepherd has remained familiar and comforting to many church people. Yet this very familiarity can prevent us from grasping its essential feature. Sheep have a poor image in the modern world -- foolish, easily frightened, inclined to bolt -- so that shepherds have to control them, assisted often by dogs nipping at the heels of the witless sheep. Shepherds in biblical times, however, did not drive their sheep; they led them, to sources of fresh water that they were unlikely to find for themselves. It was also the shepherd's job to protect them from hazards too great for the sheep to anticipate. It was the shepherd's superior wisdom and care that made this possible. Without it, the sheep could be expected to “go astray, each to his own way” (Isaiah 56:3).
The message is not an entirely easy one for a modern audience. We are resistant to being driven, and not much better disposed to being led. Yet, as the crisis of the corona virus has demonstrated, we are easily frightened into accepting instructions, and like sheep, following the crowd. The image of the Good Shepherd runs counter to all this. Like the shepherd, it is God who finds us, not we who find God. Our task is to be able to recognize His call, and then to follow the divine Word as it uniquely comes to us through Christ. Both ready acceptance of fashionable political ‘wisdom’ and individualistic attempts to pursue a spiritual path of our own devising, threaten a dangerous wandering from the will of God as revealed in Christ.
In this year of the Lectionary, the brief passage from Acts gives us a sense of the excitement and urgency with which the first converts heard this call. Two thousand years on, there can hardly be that same urgency. Yet the passage also gives us a clear indication of what has lain at the heart of Christian practice from the earliest times -- “teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers”. Under current restrictions we are forbidden to engage in Christian fellowship and the breaking of bread, and thus denied the age-old blessing of corporate worship. Of course, private prayer remains possible and important, but to follow the Good Shepherd at the present time means acknowledging that the absence of the Church’s corporate life is a huge loss, and praying that we may recover its importance when normality returns.
The episode is unique to Luke’s Gospel, and what makes it so intriguing is its ordinariness. Last week’s Gospel (from John) related Christ’s appearance in an upper room behind locked doors. There is mysteriousness about this that provides the context for Thomas’s understandable doubts. Luke’s account of the Emmaus appearance is quite different. To begin with, these ‘disciples’ were not among the twelve, and though their sadness and puzzlement about the death of Jesus is palpable, the journey they are on seems to be for some practical purpose of everyday life. Most striking of all, unlike the disciples in the upper room, they do not recognize Jesus straight away. Instead, they walk along the road with him for quite some time, engaging in conversation and assuming he is just another traveller. The moment of recognition only comes when the journey ends. Then, quite suddenly, they recognize him by the characteristic gesture with he breaks a loaf of bread for supper.
The story of Christ’s appearance to these unnamed disciples has particular appeal because it resonates so well with the vast majority of Christians. People who are neither saints nor mystics, will think and wonder about Jesus from time to time, but for the most part they are just getting on with the business of life. The Road to Emmaus alerts us to the possibility that, alongside special ‘upper room’ experiences, the presence of Christ in the world can also be experienced in ordinary life -- suddenly, and surprisingly. He is revealed in the people and events of everyday, and sometimes in the most unexpected places. As Mother Theresa memorably said, Christ was to be found among dying and degraded human beings on the streets of Calcutta, albeit in ‘his most distressing disguise’.
These little ‘epiphanies’ in everyday life invite us to repeat the same ‘question and answer’ that we find in this week's reading from Acts. “What should we do?”, Peter’s hearers asked him. His answer was: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven”. Those of us who were baptized long ago, often in infancy, obviously cannot respond in the same way as early converts. Yet as the practice of renewing baptismal vows implies, we can makes efforts to acknowledge again and again the reality of which this week's Epistle reminds us. We know that it is not by the ‘silver or gold’ we spend so much of our time securing that we ‘have been ransomed from futile ways of life’ inherited from our history, but by the ‘death of Jesus’. Fully grasping this deep truth requires regular spiritual renewal. The story of Emmaus provides a compelling model of how that can happen, how we can be spiritually surprised 'on the road'. With such renewal we are enabled once more to make the voice of this Sunday's Psalmist our own: “O LORD, I am your servant. You have loosed my bonds.”
Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday slot normally occupied by a reading from the Old Testament is filled by a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, recounting the post-Resurrection experiences of the first apostles. This week's lesson is a speech widely regarded as the earliest and definitive statement of the Christian ‘kerygma’ -- the essential Gospel, or Good News of redemption in Christ. Peter makes this speech in the market place shortly after the disciples’ explosive experience on the Day of Pentecost.
The point he is most concerned to highlight is that, while Jesus stood in King David’s line, he brought the Messiahship of God to a fulfilment far surpassing even David’s greatness. Since, as most in Peter's audience would have known, Jesus had recently been crucified as a criminal, this is an astonishing claim to make, and Peter’s making it is the most powerful evidence we have of the dramatic difference that the Resurrection brought about in the psychology of the disciples. In this way, the book of Acts enables us to encounter men and women transformed by new theological insight into the ways of the God in whom they had always believed.
The Epistle may or may not have been written by Peter himself, but it conveys the same vibrant message to a fledgling church, this time in the form of a song of praise rather than a sermon. In these few beautiful sentences we witness a transition from theology to liturgy – and indeed, thanks to the 19th century English cathedral composer S S Wesley, this text has become one of the most widely sung choral anthems for Easter.
The Gospel passage for this Sunday has also stimulated great art. Several famous paintings show ‘doubting’ Thomas examining the wound in Jesus’ side. Their slightly chilling realism is a powerful reminder of how, when it is taken past a certain point, understandable scepticism can make us incapable of wonder. While Thomas insists that he must see the bodily evidence with his own eyes, Jesus insists that believing without seeing is more blessed.
Thomas, nevertheless, is granted a post-Resurrection appearance of a bodily Jesus. Such experiences proved to be a short lived gift to just a few disciples. By contrast, the enduring truth of the Resurrection, and the significance of its redeeming power, is perpetually waiting to be experienced in the Body of Christ that is given to us in the sacrament of communion, available to all who will receive it in penitence, trust and adoration Sunday by Sunday. That is why Christians have a special reason to lament the constraints that we are currently obliged to observe.
CHRIST is RISEN
Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day
didst make thy triumph over death and sin,
and having harrowed hell, didst bring away
captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
and grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
being with thy dear blood clean washed from sin,
may live for ever in felicity:
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
may likewise love thee for the same again;
and for thy sake, who dost all grace supply,
with love may one another entertain;
So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought;
love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
It was as His flesh; ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.
And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.
Yet, the proper liturgy for Holy Saturday has a valuable character of its own. It captures a spiritually significant pause between the intensity of Good Friday and the joyfulness of Easter Day. The set reading from Job, with its theme of mortality, is a fitting accompaniment for the Gospel, which recounts the removal of Jesus’ body from the shame of the Cross to the silence of the tomb.
The main figure in this part of the story is Joseph of Arimathaea who secures permission to take the body of Jesus down from the cross, and provides a newly cut tomb as its temporary resting place. Joseph is mentioned in this one connection, and in this connection only, by all four Gospels. In John’s version (which the lectionary offers us as an alternative) he is accompanied by Nicodemus. Nicodemus appears three times in the life of Christ, though only in John’s Gospel. Neither Joseph nor Nicodemus was a follower of Christ. Joseph was a member of the Council of Jewish leaders, and Nicodemus an equally well-respected figure. Together they represent another side of the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities – thoughtful and faithful people who dissented from his condemnation, but stopped short of professing any allegiance to him. Nicodemus kept his deep interest in Jesus carefully hidden by visiting him under the cover of darkness. Joseph reserved his service, and his gift, to Jesus until after his death. This uncertain position mid-way between the friends and the enemies of Jesus, makes them highly suitable people to figure in the space between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. They were drawn, and moved, by his life and death, but not yet persuaded of his Messiahship.
In thinking about them we are invited to dwell, if only for twenty four hours, on the fact of our mortality. In the light of the Resurrection, we can place our hopes in the transcendence of death offered to us by the saving work of Christ. But on Holy Saturday that moment of revelation has not yet arrived. That is why the liturgy for this day fills the space normally occupied by the Prayers of the People with the beautiful Funeral Sentences from the Book of Common Prayer.
Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.
He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow,
and never continueth in one stay.
In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?
Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayers; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty. O holy and most merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.
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