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Author Topic: A theological problem involving St. Herman  (Read 3808 times) Average Rating: 0
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Cosmoline
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« on: October 13, 2004, 01:12:10 PM »

I'm not a Christian, primarily because of deep theological problems with the concept of the Trinity. But I have attended Orthodox services in the past and I appreciate St. Herman of Alaska as a historical and religious figure.  During a moment of deep personal crisis a few months ago, I asked St. Herman for assistance and, surprisingly enough, the problem facing me dissolved.  

Is it even a theological possibility that a non-believer could have some sort of assistance from a Saint?
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2004, 01:40:32 PM »

I don't have time to write a long answer, but in short:

Of course, the saints intercede for all of mankind regardless of whether they believe or not.

R
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2004, 05:06:14 PM »

Yup.  Sounds like something St. Herman might do... Smiley

The sun shines on everybody, regardless of creed.
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2004, 07:18:39 PM »

Is it even a theological possibility that a non-believer could have some sort of assistance from a Saint?  

Yes!
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2004, 07:36:03 PM »

Thank you for your responses.  This unfortunately puts me in the horns of a dilema.  If Saint Herman is still working miracles, then his creed must have been correct.  But if his belief was correct, then the Trinity must also be true.  I have read enough about him to know that he did, indeed, have faith in the Trinity as it was understood by the Church.  But the Trinity has always seemed to me to be polytheism, as it divides the Allmighty into three parts.  How can the parts be divided without dividing the whole?  And if the whole is divided one part must of necessity be different from another part.  How can the Allmighty be divided?

Maybe I'll ask St. Herman.  That's the sort of argument he would have loved to get into, I suspect.
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2004, 07:36:14 PM »

Quote
I'm not a Christian, primarily because of deep theological problems with the concept of the Trinity. But I have attended Orthodox services in the past and I appreciate St. Herman of Alaska as a historical and religious figure.  During a moment of deep personal crisis a few months ago, I asked St. Herman for assistance and, surprisingly enough, the problem facing me dissolved.  

Just another thought, maybe St. Herman was able to help you because the faith he held is true. Just something to think about.
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2004, 08:00:37 PM »

Indeed, that seems to be the case.  But it does create a problem for me.
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2004, 08:50:28 PM »

Thank you for your responses.  This unfortunately puts me in the horns of a dilema.  If Saint Herman is still working miracles, then his creed must have been correct.  But if his belief was correct, then the Trinity must also be true.  I have read enough about him to know that he did, indeed, have faith in the Trinity as it was understood by the Church.  But the Trinity has always seemed to me to be polytheism, as it divides the Allmighty into three parts.  How can the parts be divided without dividing the whole?  And if the whole is divided one part must of necessity be different from another part.  How can the Allmighty be divided?

Maybe I'll ask St. Herman.  That's the sort of argument he would have loved to get into, I suspect.  

There's a reason it's called a Mystery.  I remember someone mentioning a story of a little boy on the beach digging a small hole in the sand and taking pails of water and trying to put the ocean in that little hole. A priest walking by told the little boy that he can't possibly put all the water in the ocean in that hole in the sand. And the boy responded, "Then why do you try to fit the mystery of the Trinity into your mind?" Something to that effect. The boy was an angel.  

Not that things shouldn't be read about and learned and thought about, but some things are beyond us, I believe.

Welcome, by the way Smiley

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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2004, 09:37:57 PM »

I'm not Orthodox, but the Liturgy describes the Trinity as being "undivided".  This refers to His one essence (or ousia in Greek).  God's "three-ness" is regarding the three Persons (or hypostases) that share the one undivided Divine essence.  The one-ness and three-ness refer to different "aspects" of God's being, but there is but one God.  Because this is so, the doctrine of the Trinity is not a contradiction, but it is indeed a mystery.  Finite human beings--who exist as one person and one being--can't possibly comprehend an infinite undivided God who exists as Three Persons but this is how He revealed Himself to His Church.  An analogy who be for a being from a two dimensional world trying to comprehend a three dimensional object such as a cube.  Or beings in our world trying to comprehend a fourth spatial dimension.  The closest thing I can think of from the created world that seems to exhibit this seemingly paradoxical duality of undivided-divided "properties" would be light which is some respects behaves as a continuous wave while in others as discreet particles.  If we can't fully understand how this can be with created light, it's no wonder we can't begin to grasp how the God who is Light can be Three consubstantial Persons who share one Divine Essence.

Anyway, sorry for rambling (I'm half listening to the presidential debate in the other room...)
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2004, 09:38:57 PM »

Only God the Father is O Theos.  Christ and the Holy Spirit are begotten and proceed from the Father and as they share the same essence are Divine.

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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2004, 09:40:11 PM »

Only God the Father is O Theos.  Christ and the Holy Spirit are begotten and proceed from the Father and as they share the same essence are Divine.

Anastasios

Yeah, what he said.   Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2004, 09:40:32 PM »

If you are intellectually-oriented, I would suggest these two books:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0881412244/qid=1097717982/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/103-0908597-9811843?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/088141266X/qid=1097718010/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/103-0908597-9811843?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Anastasios
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2004, 10:31:57 PM »


lol, and if you're me, you just think of how nice the sand story is...
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2004, 08:16:21 AM »

St. Basil the Great has a good explanation:

(Excerpt from the 8th Epistle)
...
Against those who cast it in our teeth that we are Tritheists, let it be answered that we confess One God not in number, but in nature. For everything which is called one in number is not one absolutely, nor yet simple in nature. But God is universally confessed to be simple and not composite. God, therefore, is not one in number. What I mean is this: We say that the world is one in number, but not one by nature, nor yet simple; for we divide it into its constituent elements, fire, water, air and earth. Again, a man is called one in number. We frequently speak of one man, but man, who is composed of body and soul is not simple. Similarly we say one angel in number, but not one by nature nor yet simple, for we conceive of the hypostasis of the angel as essence with sanctification. If therefore everything which is one in number is not one in nature, and that which is one and simple in nature is not one in number; and if we call God one in nature how can number be charged against us, when we utterly exclude it from that blessed and spiritual nature?

Number relates to quantity; and quantity is conjoined with bodily nature. We believe our Lord to be Creator of bodies. Wherefore every number indicates those things which have received a material and circumscribed nature. Monad and Unity on the other hand signify the nature which is simple and incomprehensible.

Whoever therefore confesses either the Son of God or the Holy Ghost to be number or creature introduces unawares a material and circumscribed nature. And by circumscribed I mean not only locally limited, but a nature which is comprehended in foreknowledge by Him who is about to educe it from the non-existant into the existant and which can be comprehended by science.
(Source: http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/.../basil8.html)
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2004, 08:31:46 AM »

Dear Cosmoline,

you might appreciate the following approach to the Trinity given by Father Daniel Bambang Dwi Byantoro of the Orthodox church in Indonesia
http://www.pr.ru/emmaus/samples/Indonesi.pdf

Fr. Daniel: I think that in any missionary work, you must first of all understand the culture of the people and you have to be able to speak within the bounds of that cultural language, because otherwise your word cannot be heard or understood. So, when you talk with a Moslem, you must understand the Moslem mind. Don’t just try to throw in words and phrases that are familiar to Christians, to Orthodox, because they will not be understood by a Moslem. First of all, when you talk to a Moslem, you have to emphasize that God is One.

Thomas: Because they already believe this?

Fr. Daniel: Not only because they already believe this, but because they accuse us [the Christians] of having three gods. That is the problem. So, you have to clear up the misunderstanding that we worship three gods. Don’t try to use our traditional language, like Father, Son and Holy Spirit - because for them, that is three gods! In their minds, the Father is different, the Son is different, the Holy Spirit is different. For myself, I emphasize that God is One, that this One God is also the Living God, and as the Living God He has Mind. Because if God didn’t have a mind, I’m sorry to say, He would be like an idiot. God has to have a mind. Within the Mind of God there is the Word. Thus, the Word of God is contained within God Himself. So, God in His Word is not two, but one. God is full with His own Word; He is pregnant with Word. And that Word of God is then revealed to man. The thing that is contained within - like being impregnated within oneself - when it is revealed, it is called being born out of that person. That is why the Word of God is called the Son: He is the Child Who is born from within God, but outside time. So, that is why this One God is called the Father, because He has His own Word Who is born out of Him, and is called the Son. So, Father and Son are not two gods. The Father is One God, the Son is that Word of God. The Moslem believes that God created the world through the Word. So what the Moslem believes in as Word, is what the Christians call the Son! In that way, we can explain to them that God does not have a son separate from Himself.

Thomas: So the Moslems see our idea of the Son of God in terms of physical sonship.

Fr. Daniel: Yes, of course. And God does not have a son in that way, that’s true. He is not begetting in the sense of a human being giving birth. He is called the Father because He produces from Himself, His own Word, and that Word is the Son. So because God is the living God, He must have the principle of life within Himself. In man, this principle of life is man’s spirit. God is the same. The principle of life within God is the Spirit of God. It is called the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not the name of the Angel Gabriel, as the Moslems understand it. The Holy Spirit is the living principle, the principle of life and power within God Himself. This One God is called the Father because He produced from Himself His own Word, which is called the Son, and the Word of God is called the Son because He is born out of the Father eternally, without beginning, without end. This One Living God also has Spirit within Himself. So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one God. This is the way we explain to Moslems about the Trinity, and we should not try to use our language of “Father and Son, co-equal, co-...” something like that. Even though it is our Christian terminology, they will not understand this. The purpose is not to theologize to them but to explain the reality of the Gospel in a way that is understandable to them. This is point number one: you have to be clear about the Trinity.
The second point is this: the basic difference between Islam and Christianity concerns revelation. In Islam, God does not reveal Himself. God only sends down His word. “Revelation” in Islam means “the sending down of the word of God” through the prophets. And that word is then written down and becomes scripture. So in Islam, revelation means the “inscripturization” of the word of God while in Christianity, it is not the same. The Word was sent down to the womb of the Virgin Mary, took flesh and became man. Namely, Jesus Christ. So, the two religions believe that God communicated Himself to man by means of the Word, but the difference is how that Word manifested in the world. In Christianity it is manifested in the person of Jesus Christ and in Islam it is manifested in the form of a book, the Koran. So, the place of Mohammed in Islam is parallel to the place of the Virgin Mary in Orthodox Christianity. That is why in Islam the Moslems respect Mohammed, not as a god, but as the bearer of revelations. Just as the Orthodox Church respects the Virgin Mary not as a goddess but as the bearer of the Word of God, who gave birth to the Word of God. Incidentally, the two religions both give salutations, to Mohammed for the Moslems and to the Virgin Mary for Christians. The Moslems also have a kind of akathist, like a paraclesis but to Mohammed! It is called the depa abarjanji - in Orthodox terms it would be a “canon” to Mohammed, because he is the bearer of the revelation.

Thomas: So Mohammed is venerated like a saint?

Fr. Daniel: He is venerated, yes. Very much so. But there are also the Sufi Moslems, who sometimes believe that Mohammed was “already there,” like the Arian misunderstanding of Christ. In their view, Mohammed was the “first created soul,” for whom the world was created. This is called the Nor-Mohammed. So, the purpose of Islamic mystics is to be like Mohammed, to
imitate him.

Thomas: To be the bearer of the Word?

Fr. Daniel: As Mohammed was.

Thomas: So, that is why Sufi mystics are perhaps not so legalistic?

Fr. Daniel: Yes, they are more mystical.
So, for us, the image of the Church is the Virgin Mary. We are called to be like the Virgin Mary in our submission to God. The Virgin Mary is the picture, the image, or I should say, the icon of the Church. Mohammed is the “icon” of the ideal Moslem man, and because of that the way we worship diverges. In Christianity, because the Word became a man, became flesh, for us to be united with that Word we have to be united with the content of that revelation. What is the content? The incarnation, crucifixion, death and resurrection of that Person. In order for us to be united with the content of that Holy Friday revelation, we have to be united in that Person, namely in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How? Through baptism. And we also have to be united with the life of the resurrection of that incarnate Word. How? By the Holy Spirit, through Chrismation. So, the sacraments are very important for us because God became man. He sanctified the physical world so that the physical elements of nature can be used as the means by which we are united with the person of Christ in the sacraments.In Islam, however, because the word becomes a book, the content of the book is writing. It is not flesh. So, that is why in order for a Moslem to unite with the content of the two-fold revelation (that God is one and that Mohammed is His prophet) one has to recite the source of revelation - because it is a book. But you cannot be united with or immersed in a book, you can only memorize the content of the book in the original form, namely in Arabic. So, Arabic scripture is the form of that revelation. The God-Man Jesus is the form of that revelation in Christianity.
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2004, 09:12:53 AM »

just a thought...St Herman didn't help you with your problem< God did. Saints add thier prayers to ours, they have no power on thier own to grant favors, only to pray for us- God provides the answer.
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2004, 02:35:20 PM »

Maybe I'll ask St. Herman.

Sounds like a plan.

Quote
That's the sort of argument he would have loved to get into, I suspect.

Eh, probably not...he wasn't much for arguing...but I get what you're saying...

just a thought...St Herman didn't help you with your problem< God did. Saints add thier prayers to ours, they have no power on thier own to grant favors, only to pray for us- God provides the answer.

Right, but He does so through His messengers, His tools, if you will.  

St. Herman did help you with your problem -- as Crucifer said -- through his prayers.  He was, if you will, the channel (as far as we can tell) through which God moved to deal with you.  Right now it might be him working with you in order to bring you into a relationship with God.  Who knows?  But sounds like, for now, anyway, you've got a good someone to look up to within the Faith, who'll help save you through his life and example and prayers.
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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2004, 05:21:13 PM »

This passage is where I got the notion of a theological argument with St. Herman:

"Several years ago," continues Yanovsky, "Father Herman converted one naval captain, G., from the Lutheran faith to Orthodoxy. This captain was quite educated. Besides many sciences, he knew many languages: Russian, French, German, Italian, English, and a bit of Spanish. In spite of that he could not resist the arguments and proofs of Father Herman: he changed his beliefs and was received into the Church through Chrismation."

http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/herman.htm
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2004, 06:15:58 PM »

"Several years ago," continues Yanovsky, "Father Herman converted one naval captain, G., from the Lutheran faith to Orthodoxy. This captain was quite educated. Besides many sciences, he knew many languages: Russian, French, German, Italian, English, and a bit of Spanish. In spite of that he could not resist the arguments and proofs of Father Herman: he changed his beliefs and was received into the Church through Chrismation."

Cool! I stand corrected.

A question, just out of curiosity...what made you think to call on St. Herman?  Not necessarily asking what your crisis was, but how had you heard of St. Herman?
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2004, 06:34:05 PM »

I live in Alaska and had read about him in connection with his historical interactions with the Russian-American Company and the Kodiak natives.  

I was surprised recently to encounter discussion of Valaam Monestary in connection with the Winter War and Continuation War between Finland and Russia. I had no idea it was way over there.  

On top of this, I'm currently homesteading in Willow and living in an uninsulated 8x10 shack.  I comfort myself by noting that I have good surplus wool blankets rather than a hard board to cover me.  Compared to St. Herman's hand-dug hole I'm in a palace.
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« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2004, 02:28:47 AM »

But the Trinity has always seemed to me to be polytheism, as it divides the Allmighty into three parts.  How can the parts be divided without dividing the whole?  And if the whole is divided one part must of necessity be different from another part.  How can the Allmighty be divided?

Dear Cosmoline,

The quick and easy answer to your question is this: The trinity does not divide God into three parts! God cannot be likened to a material and divisible substance (such as a pie for example which can be cut into 3 pieces), and the metaphysical persons of God are definitely not "parts" or "divisions" of the substance, simply different personalisations of the substance itself - the substance of God and His personhood are 2 different principles of being and thus one does not negate the other.

This might not make much sense to you right now, which is why i strongly recommend you print off the following article in the pdf link im about to give you, and read it AT LEAST THREE TIMES. Its actually a polemical article refuting an 8th century Muslim philosopher who tried to attack the trinity on the basis that the persons divide the substance and hence compromises the divine unity of God.

This article is very thorough, and i think its the perfect one for u - i highly recommend it:
www.muhammadanism.org/trinity/al-warraq_trinity.pdf

Peace
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« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2004, 04:16:08 PM »

Thanks for all of your imput!  I'm still exploring these matters but if I ever do convert to Christianity it will be in this Church.  From an outsider's point of view it seems the obvious choice.
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« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2012, 09:12:49 PM »

Dear Cosmoline,

This thread is a little old…maybe…for a new post…but I just wanted to add a note with respect to the Holy Trinity.

I grew up in a Trinitarian faith…not that there was much in the way of understanding…just this is what God has revealed about Himself, so that's just the way it is…and I can't say I had much in the way of a fuller understanding when I was first received into Orthodoxy. I was asked if I believed in the Holy Trinity, not if I understood.

Still, if was a few years later when I encountered a book…one I hesitate to recommend to anyone at the gates…it was hard enough reading as it was….when I first encountered it…it was almost like facing calculus…very densely reasoned/expressed theology…yet it was this book which gave me a persecutive on the Holy Trinity I had never encountered before…one I felt that was deeply convincing…that if God is Love as the NT teaches, then He must exist as Holy Trinity.

The book is by Bishop John Zizoulas, Being as Communion.

Insofar as I follow what he says, he states that Orthodoxy doesn't begin it's understanding and experience of God as essence. Rather we begin with God as Person. Before God is "Divine Substance" (whatever that is) He is the Person of the Father, a Person who we are taught by St. James is Love. We are further taught by St. Paul about the nature of love (not puffed up, seeking not it's own, etc.)  So here we have Love. Love by it's nature does not exist in the absence of the Beloved. That is to say it is relational. There is no such thing as love in the abstract…rather there is One who Loves and there is One who is Beloved. If this were all though love would be an exercise in narcissism…the One in love with it's own face in a sense…a self absorbed divine dyad. Love as love goes beyond this and seeks out the Divine "Other".

So we have the Father, Love, a Person, the very font of Divinity who loves and ecstatically (begets) gives Himself utterly to the Beloved, and the Son, the Beloved Only Begotten surrenders Himself utterly to the Father, burying His will in the Father's. But Love not only begets Love, it also processes, reaching out in a sense to the Other, the Holy Spirit Who in turn yields His will and being back to the Father.  Each Person of the Holy Trinity lives surrendered in each other, a perichorus of love…an "Event" of communion.

This is to say in some fashion, with the Capadocean fathers that nothing exists by itself without relationship to anyone or anything else, not even God. God exists in the primordial ontological category of being…which is Communion.  This Divine Communion is what makes all things be, for all that is exists as the overflow and outworking of this first and foundational communion that exists beyond all being.  The Church is the Church precisely because it participates as an ontological expression of the Life of the Holy Trinity…of their communion with Each Other. In it man is lifted up and made an ecclessial being, resolving the question of ontological freedom for man.

This is to say, God is not God or in communion because He must be (that would be to introduce a necessity greater than God), but rather because He choses to be, and affirms that Being in an event of Communion with other free Hypostatical Beings (Persons). We enter into this communion and affirm our will to be as part of this free communion of free hypostatical beings, persons.

In short If God is a Person who is Love love doesn't exist alone as divine monad…that is not love. Since Love exists only as Communion, and there is no communion without Hypostases which commune (share, express, and embody that love), the Holy Trinity then is that original communion whose font is the Father whose Love is realized in the Son and the Holy Spirit Who respectively are begotten of or proceed from Him.  

I know it all sounds a bit wound up around itself…that is just my inadequacy at presenting it.  The best illustration I can think of is that of the first family.  There is Adam, then there is the one who proceeds from him, taken from his side, Eve. She is the one like him, complementary to him, but other than him. Then they have a son (begotten), whom Adam says is his image and likeness. The son is the "ecstasy" of Adam's body and soul…the going out of himself.  Thus we have picture of procession and begottonness…that gives us a sense of what is investing in the being of the whole Adam.  Of course, God is greater than human being or any creaturely being. And the first families' relationships reveal to an extent without explaining the relationships between the members of the Holy Trinity….but they do show Love in procession and in begetting in a creaturely limited way. Adam was man…but it was in outflowing of his humanity that human persons came to be.  Unlike Adam though God as God was never alone. He is revealed to us as the Father precisely because He is Father in relationship to the begotten, the Son, and He is Lord in relation to the Helper, the Comforter, The Spirit of Truth Who ever Proceeds from Him. And they are One God existing in an unbroken communion of Love.

That's the long and somewhat longer of it…sample the book…even just the introduction…all I can say is that if you can get through it…the Holy Trinity will make a sort of sense that it never did before…which is not to say anyone understands it's depths any better…just a better sense of where the deep waters roll.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 09:13:16 PM by Seraphim98 » Logged
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« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2012, 09:17:48 PM »

I'm not a Christian, primarily because of deep theological problems with the concept of the Trinity. But I have attended Orthodox services in the past and I appreciate St. Herman of Alaska as a historical and religious figure.  During a moment of deep personal crisis a few months ago, I asked St. Herman for assistance and, surprisingly enough, the problem facing me dissolved.  

Is it even a theological possibility that a non-believer could have some sort of assistance from a Saint?

Absolutely. The will of God is that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And the saints enter into this work.
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