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adoro.te.devote

are only CVs brides of Christ?

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adoro.te.devote

Hi everyone,

There was a very long thread from years ago about who can be called the Bride of Christ and if this is only applicable to Consecrated Virgins. As I recall there were two threads, one being around 40 pages - so I understand this is a very complicated discussion that might not get resolved on an online forum.

 

However, as I am discerning my vocation, this topic is often on my mind, and it is almost always surrounded by a type of confusion. I don't know if any type of consensus was reached in that very long thread, and I wouldn't want to bring up that huge debate once more. I am just wondering if anyone has any thoughts about these particular points:

 

In the thread, a poster who is a Consecrated Virgin was describing the vocation. She wrote that essentially, the Rite of the Consecration of Virginity causes an ontological change in the person, by which they become an image of the Church, Virgin, Bride and Mother. Hence, this soul is now the Bride of Christ in the most direct sense. The poster also described how others who are dedicated to perfect chastity (defined as perpetual virginity or celibacy) and who have made a vow of chastity, for instance nuns or Sisters; are not brides of Christ in a direct sense, but rather share or participate in the Spousal identity of the Church.

 

Certain other posters had difficulty with this view, since many religious who are in communities that do not do the Consecration of Virgins, still discern their vocation in a very spousal way. They experience their call not as being disciples, but as being brides of Christ, and for this reason they wish to give up all things for Him. Furthermore, if female religious do not become brides of Christ, (unless they receive the Consecration of Virgins, which only a few orders offer) - this calls into question why so many female Saints spoke of Our Lord as their Spouse, and linked this with their Profession - or, why so many profession ceremonies are permitted to not only use spousal imagery, but to directly call the new religious by the title of "spouse". Even Papal Encyclicals use this imagery in describing nuns. 

 

I read part of a book called "Mystery of Love for the Single" by Fr Dominic Unger (TAN). In this book, the priest seems to make a case for those even with private vows as being somehow, brides of Christ. In support of this view, he explains how by choosing celibacy for the sake of Christ, our wills are then more able to love Him more totally and undividedly. In the book "Divine Intimacy", the author also makes it clear that a vow of chastity causes the person to belong to God alone. Fr Dominic also quotes the words of Our Lord to St Margaret Mary, when He told her that before her profession, she was His Fiancee, but now, she will be His Spouse. Though this is not the deposit of faith and is a private revelation, it coincides with the typical understanding of vows of chastity and religious profession. 

 

Fr Dominic continues to explain how perfect chastity embraced for Christ is linked to a mystical union with Him which is spousal in character. Every soul is a spouse of Christ in a general way. However, virginal love which seeks only the Divine Bridegroom, allows the soul to love Him more fully. While the principle end of marriage is procreation, and the secondary end is mutual love - in this union with Christ, mutual love becomes the main end, while spiritual fruitfulness is second. 

 

If those who choose virginity and celibacy do so in order to love Christ more exclusively and completely, (which I completely agree with as the most common motive) - this love, for women who vow themselves to God, tends to have a bridal spirituality to it. Fr Dominic describes this self giving in chastity as the most complete surrender to Christ that could be had in this life. The promise or vow to Christ also mirrors the marriage contract, giving it a spousal character. "Virginal love seals the heart of the lover for Christ alone".

 

The confusing part is that Fr Dominic proceeds to explain this vocation by using references from the Rite of Consecration of Virgins. However, he seems to be applying the truths of it not only to the Consecrated Virgins, but to anyone who lives that life and seals with a profession/vow/promise. And this is really the question: can this identity of being a Spouse of Christ exist outside of Consecrated Virginity. If it does, then this leads to the question of why this is a distinct vocation. If it does not, then it's hard to imagine that Saints like St Therese, St Rose of Lima, St Gemma Galgani, St Teresa of Avila, and St Clare of Assisi, (not to mention many others) were not truly brides of Christ. 

 

I apologize for this post being so long. I have become very confused about this topic.. I usually don't share this with most people irl, but perhaps it is ok to share here as it is an anonymous forum: I am living with a private vow of chastity. To me, this has been chosen because of what I took as a call to belong to Jesus in a spousal way. This is what it has always meant to me. In addition, I am discerning about religious life, as I feel called to a life of contemplation. And it's very evident to me that the reason why I have decided not to marry, and why I would like to seek the other evangelical counsels, and to give up other things like my job, is because of this very feminine and bridal way of relating to Our Lord. I do not simply feel drawn to being a disciple, though I also feel very unworthy of being either. I am sure there are so many others like me. When I read about the Saints, I see this in them constantly - St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Sr Josefa Menendez (a mystic and saintly Sister), St Veronica Giuliani, - all of them wanted to vow their chastity *in order to* be espoused to Christ. I don't understand - are we all wrong? Is all this tradition wrong, and we have attributed something to religious life that doesn't exist there?

 

It is true that both men and women can be religious. But don't women tend to experience the call with a slightly different emphasis? The very identity of being a woman presupposes one to this way of relating to God. Instead of saying that only CVs are brides of Christ, can we say that every soul is a bride of Christ but the vocations of consecrated life and CV amplify this by degrees of perfection? The poster in the thread I mention, did not seem to think it is a matter of degrees for CVs, but that they alone have this identity - whereas others vary in how much they participate in this spousal aspect of the Church. But participation is not the same as identity. 

 

How do we know if this is the truth? It seems like an important point for discernment... and when I try to research it, all I find are conflicting views. I'm just looking for any more information, if anyone has it, about the reality for sisters/nuns/those with private vows. Thank you so much! God bless 

Edited by adoro.te.devote
grammar

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adoro.te.devote

To summarize the two views in that debate thread... (I really don't want or intend to bring up the debate again!! My intent is to explain the topic for the sake of clarity)

On one hand, there is the view that CVs are the only true brides of Christ, while others partially share in the spousal bridal nature of the Church (laypersons, then sisters, then nuns, in that order, rather than equally). 

On the other hand, Verbi Sponsa says: "The solitary cell, the closed cloister, are the place where the nun, bride of the Incarnate Word, lives wholly concentrated with Christ in God."

How can we know what the truth is, and what the actual Church teaching is, amidst all this obscurity? Research on the internet just gives more and more opinions and each one has reasons for what they believe.. it seems like the type of topic that could be ridiculously over analyzed but for those who are seeking a vocation, it could truly cause confusion in their discernment :( 

 

I'll also attach the following quotes from Pope John Paul II from Mulieris Dignitatum. When he speaks of virginity here, it seems to simply mean any form of consecrated life for women. 

"Virginity according to the Gospel means renouncing marriage and thus physical motherhood. Nevertheless, the renunciation of this kind of motherhood, a renunciation that can involve great sacrifice for a woman, makes possible a different kind of motherhood: motherhood "according to the Spirit" (cf. Rom 8:4). For virginity does not deprive a woman of her prerogatives. Spiritual motherhood takes on many different forms. In the life of consecrated women, for example, who live according to the charism and the rules of the various apostolic Institutes, it can express itself as concern for people, especially the most needy: the sick, the handicapped, the abandoned, orphans, the elderly, children, young people, the imprisoned and, in general, people on the edges of society. In this way a consecrated woman finds her Spouse, different and the same in each and every person, according to his very words: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me"(Mt 25:40). Spousal love always involves a special readiness to be poured out for the sake of those who come within one's range of activity. In marriage this readiness, even though open to all, consists mainly in the love that parents give to their children. In virginity this readiness is open to all people, who are embraced by the love of Christ the Spouse.

 

Spousal love - with its maternal potential hidden in the heart of the woman as a virginal bride - when joined to Christ, the Redeemer of each and every person, is also predisposed to being open to each and every person. This is confirmed in the religious communities of apostolic life, and in a different way in communities of contemplative life, or the cloister. There exist still other forms of a vocation to virginity for the sake of the Kingdom; for example, the Secular Institutes, or the communities of consecrated persons which flourish within Movements, Groups and Associations. In all of these the same truth about the spiritual motherhood of virgins is confirmed in various ways. However, it is not only a matter of communal forms but also of non-communal forms. In brief, virginity as a woman's vocation is always the vocation of a person - of a unique, individual person. Therefore the spiritual motherhood which makes itself felt in this vocation is also profoundly personal.

 

This is also the basis of a specific convergence between the virginity of the unmarried woman and the motherhood of the married woman. This convergence moves not only from motherhood towards virginity, as emphasized above; it also moves from virginity towards marriage, the form of woman's vocation in which she becomes a mother by giving birth to her children. The starting point of this second analogy is the meaning of marriage. A woman is "married" either through the sacrament of marriage or spiritually through marriage to Christ. In both cases marriage signifies the "sincere gift of the person" of the bride to the groom. In this way, one can say that the profile of marriage is found spiritually in virginity. And does not physical motherhood also have to be a spiritual motherhood, in order to respond to the whole truth about the human being who is a unity of body and spirit? Thus there exist many reasons for discerning in these two different paths - the two different vocations of women - a profound complementarity, and even a profound union within a person's being."

 

How would something like this coincide with the understanding of Consecrated Virginity. If anyone has any thoughts i'd be very grateful, or any information to share at all. :) I apologize again for the length... this is so hard to summarize. God bless!

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Sponsa-Christi

I actually wrote a bog post on this topic a few years ago: https://sponsa-christi.blogspot.com/2015/03/who-can-be-called-bride-of-christ.html

There's a lot of nuances here, but long story short, I think that the grace to be able to relate to Christ as His bride is a charism, or a special gift given directly by God to some people for the good of the Church. I also think the consecration of virgins is an especially privileged way to live out this charism, as the Church directly and specifically confirms this charism in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity. But, many consecrated women (and even women with private vows) may have been given the charism to relate to Christ as His bride in actual fact, even if they aren't consecrated virgins properly so-called. 

Of course, these are my own educated ideas and not like something out of the Catechism, but this is how I see it. 

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adoro.te.devote

Sponsa-Christi, 

Thank you for sharing this!

In reading the original thread more, there were some quotes by Fr Thomas Dubay where he described a life of virginity in general in spousal terms. However, the poster who was explaining about Consecrated Virginity there (abrideofChrist), clarified that he also wrote about how a religious shares in the sign value of the Consecrated Virgin. This would suggest that CVs are brides of Christ but others share in the sign value, to a lesser or greater degree, I suppose. 

I guess where this leaves me, is the following question, could then women who are not CVs but who have vowed their chastity to Christ, still relate to Him in a spousal way, even if this is by participation? And what does this participation mean for them specifically? As I understand, this participation is greater for religious/consecrated women than for others, but I am having trouble understanding what it means exactly. 

Perhaps the reason I am trying to sort this out is to understand the Church's venerable tradition of using spousal language in Religious professions, books written for religious, Papal Encyclicals, and such. I think what you are trying to say is that some souls are simply given this way of relating to God? I am trying to understand more of what it would mean for them, if it doesn't make them as directly brides of Christ as the Consecration of Virginity. 

Thank you once more!

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Sponsa-Christi

@adoro.te.devote Believe it or not, the Church's theology of consecrated life actually isn't fully developed right now to the point where there is an definite answer to all your questions. Which is why I'm able to propose my own theories! ;)

To give you an analogy to explain my thinking a little bit more clearly...anyone who is in heaven is a saint, regardless of whether or not they are canonized. Canonization is not insignificant, but it would be silly to say that someone like Fulton Sheen can't possibly be in heaven because he's not canonized. I.e., we know that everyone canonized is in heaven, but that doesn't mean that everyone in heaven is canonized. I think the consecration of virgins is like the "canonization" of a call to be a bride of Christ. (Though this analogy, like all analogies, does break down in places.)

But more importantly, while it is good and important to understand the theological and canonical nuances of various forms of consecrated life as your discerning, trying to nail down clear answers on disputed academic points isn't always going to be helpful to you in your own spiritual life. 

It might be better to focus on how you specifically are feeling called. If your sense of call is primarily centered around being a bride of Christ before and apart from anything else, then it would make sense to start discerning a vocation to consecrated virginity. But if you feel called to be a bride of Christ in conjunction with community life and the spirituality of a specific religious family like the Franciscans, Dominicans, etc., then you should start visiting religious communities in this particular spiritual tradition--and then ask questions about how they understand bridal spirituality in their own communities. 

 

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Anastasia
23 hours ago, adoro.te.devote said:

There was a very long thread from years ago about who can be called the Bride of Christ and if this is only applicable to Consecrated Virgins.

I remember that when I came across a similar discussion somewhere else, I was angry because who can know and judge the reality of what is happening between the Lord and a soul but that soul, her confessor and God?

In the East, all nuns are called “the brides of Christ” but this is of course a general term that means “a woman gave herself to God”. However, monks are also “brides of Christ” (see the Hymns of St Simon the New Theologian for example or St John of the Cross) i.e. a soul is a bride regardless the actual gender.
Perhaps this link may be helpful? https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09703a.htm

I very much appreciate this definition:

22 hours ago, Sponsa-Christi said:

There's a lot of nuances here, but long story short, I think that the grace to be able to relate to Christ as His bride is a charism, or a special gift given directly by God to some people for the good of the Church. I also think the consecration of virgins is an especially privileged way to live out this charism, as the Church directly and specifically confirms this charism in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity. But, many consecrated women (and even women with private vows) may have been given the charism to relate to Christ as His bride in actual fact, even if they aren't consecrated virgins properly so-called. 

I also think it is helpful to think about that topic in terms of "relationship". If there is a spousal relationship then it is primary and the rest is "a frame". I am quite sure that if the Lord gives such a gift He will provide the most stable frame for an individual.

Edited by Anastasia

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Anastasia

Just noticed a mistake:

22 hours ago, Anastasia said:

I am quite sure that if the Lord gives such a gift He will provide the most stable frame for an individual.

the most suitable frame

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adoro.te.devote

Thank you for the replies! I'll respond soon, I'm just in a hurry right now :) 

I just wanted to say that I found this quote from the encyclical by Pope Pius XII on Sacred Virginity... it's an encyclical that seems to be written for anyone who has given their chastity to God in any way. 

The Pope writes,

"And the masters of Sacred Theology, St. Thomas Aquinas[20] and St. Bonaventure,[21] supported by the authority of Augustine, teach that virginity does not possess the stability of virtue unless there is a vow to keep it forever intact. And certainly those who obligate themselves by perpetual vow to keep their virginity put into practice in the most perfect way possible what Christ said about perpetual abstinence from marriage; nor can it justly be affirmed that the intention of those who wish to leave open a way of escape from this state of life is better and more perfect.

17. Moreover the Fathers of the Church considered this obligation of perfect chastity as a kind of spiritual marriage, in which the soul is wedded to Christ; so that some go so far as to compare breaking the vow with adultery.[22] Thus, St. Athanasius writes that the Catholic Church has been accustomed to call those who have the virtue of virginity the spouses of Christ.[23] And St. Ambrose, writing succinctly of the consecrated virgin, says, "She is a virgin who is married to God."[24] In fact, as is clear from the writings of the same Doctor of Milan,[25] as early as the fourth century the rite of consecration of a virgin was very like the rite the Church uses in our own day in the marriage blessing.[26]|

I see here that he describes Consecrated Virgins in the end, but before that, he says that the obligation of perfect chastity is a kind of a spiritual marriage... he also says that those who have the virtue of virginity are spouses of Christ, and if we look at the paragraph above, having the virtue of virginity means offering it to Christ. Putting it all together, this seems to be saying that vowing one's chastity to God makes one have a sort of a spousal relationship with Him. 

If I've understood this correctly!! I'm going to leave this up to God and the Church, because it's kind of a different interpretation than on the thread that I mentioned, and I could be wrong. I'll just post the quote as something else for discernment relating to this question :) it could always be that CVs become His brides in a more literal, official sense, whereas others still have a spousal relationship or marriage with Christ in a way that involves more of a participation in the mission of the Church. Just thought I'd share the quote, however we are supposed to interpret it :) 

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Anastasia

adoro.te.devote

I am sorry, I was unable to read your initial post thoroughly enough. I am doing this now.

On 7/28/2020 at 11:42 AM, adoro.te.devote said:

On one hand, there is the view that CVs are the only true brides of Christ, while others partially share in the spousal bridal nature of the Church (laypersons, then sisters, then nuns, in that order, rather than equally). 

On the other hand, Verbi Sponsa says: "The solitary cell, the closed cloister, are the place where the nun, bride of the Incarnate Word, lives wholly concentrated with Christ in God."

How can we know what the truth is, and what the actual Church teaching is, amidst all this obscurity? Research on the internet just gives more and more opinions and each one has reasons for what they believe.. it seems like the type of topic that could be ridiculously over analyzed but for those who are seeking a vocation, it could truly cause confusion in their discernment

If you go follow the link I posted above you may find some answers. I will simply share my thoughts which may have  no use for you whatsoever.

Years ago I was very preoccupied with the terms like "degree of perfection", "perfect reflection" and so on. I also was very preoccupied with the differences between OCD and O.Carm (Carmelites) and into which brunch I would fit etc. Now I find this to be very secondary to the only thing needed: a total surrender to God.

Over all history of the church some women (and men) had a call to make a vow of chastity so they did. Other people would get married. Some with vow of chastity would enter monastery, some would not. Some of those monasteries (orders) had a particular way of spirituality called "spousal", like Carmelites. Some people who were in such monasteries with spousal spirituality could not relate to that spirituality at all though. And the Lord have been granting a particular grace or relating to Him as to a Spouse to some people: monastics, with vow of chastity, and married. It is a mode of a relationship if you like. Yet, absolutely every Christian is a bride of Christ and we are all supposed to tend towards what Carmelites call "mystical marriage".

I think that if such a grace (the mode of relating to Our Lord) is being given then it is an incredible aid in surrender to God, hoping only in Him.

I am not sure why you doubt the reality of such a mode of a relationship? The Church has plenty of examples, both Orthodox and Catholic.

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adoro.te.devote

Thanks for the reply! I think for me, it's just something that's been very important in my discernment with vocations. I understand that each soul is a bride of Christ and also everyone is called to the mystical Marriage. However, I realize that this is also a vocational thing, a state of life. I realized that as I am seeking my vocation (which I'm still trying to figure out, but I don't believe it to be marriage) - the spousal spirituality has really become a part of it for me. Fr Dubay says it very accurately that a gift that a woman makes of herself to God in chastity has something spousal to it, because it is a gift of love, not only of time or ability or talents. 

None of this makes me concerned, but I got confused when I read that previous thread which I mentioned; I suppose my difficulty became theological and unfortunately this made me confused about my vocational discernment too. I think this type of confusion is really a mistake, I wish it hadn't happened, because I need to trust God. But I'm trying to understand more to help me solve my difficulty. Thanks again!

In the other thread, one of the posters was trying to make the point that only CVs ARE brides of Christ, and others (like Religious) participate in it but are not brides in "essence". I don't have enough training to figure this out, but I started wondering even if this is the case, could Religious and others with a vow of chastity still be called "brides of Christ", by participation? I understand how technical this sounds... someone said in the other thread this is the kind of thing that gives scholasticism a bad name.

 

I don't mean to be needlessly technical, but somehow all this has made me confused. I know there is a very long tradition of calling all Religious "brides of Christ" and certain books I read (and even an encyclical) seem to connect vowed chastity to a spousal relationship with God. This would be an even broader definition. It's hard to connect this with the information given in the other thread, and there seem to be different theories about this as well. I think we should just seek where God wants us without worrying too much about states of perfection (while still desiring holiness and perfection), but this relates to an experience of a call which has already happened and been internalized and put into practice..

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adoro.te.devote

In the other thread, one of the posters was trying to make the point that only CVs ARE brides of Christ, and others (like Religious) participate in it but are not brides in "essence". I don't have enough training to figure this out, but I started wondering even if this is the case, could Religious and others with a vow of chastity still be called "brides of Christ", by participation? I understand how technical this sounds... someone said in the other thread this is the kind of thing that gives scholasticism a bad name.

I don't mean to be needlessly technical, but somehow all this has made me confused. I know there is a very long tradition of calling all Religious "brides of Christ" and certain books I read (and even an encyclical) seem to connect vowed chastity to a spousal relationship with God. This would be an even broader definition. It's hard to connect this with the information given in the other thread, and there seem to be different theories about this as well. I think we should just seek where God wants us without worrying too much about states of perfection (while still desiring holiness and perfection), but this relates to an experience of a call which has already happened and been internalized and put into practice..

I kind of have a theory that profession is what puts on in the consecrated state (because consecration is something that God does, through the Church) and the vow of chastity is a spousal gift to God... perhaps I can check with my priest about this. This would mean that those who are not in the consecrated state, could still be brides of Christ in some sense (even if by participation) - for instance, those who have private vows. This question really relates to my discernment as I am living with a private vow, and this is what it has meant to me. Of course, it would be different than it is for religious, more hidden, but perhaps still based on some interior reality... the encyclical I quoted above seems to be speaking about vowed chastity in general, as long as the vow is perpetual. 

Thank you for the link! I just read it. From what I understand, mystical marriage is something meant for every soul (it is also the condition of all souls in Heaven and all Saints), but there is also this vocational way of speaking about it, as a state of life.. it is very interesting to study and read about. :)

(I'm sorry part of this somehow got posted twice by mistake!)

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gloriana35

Speaking in a weathered vane... This entire question seemed extremely odd to me. The Church is the Bride of Christ; religious often used bridal symbolism - but, until I saw this thread, I'd never in my (long) live even heard anyone ask if only CVs are the 'brides of Christ.' 

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adoro.te.devote
5 hours ago, gloriana35 said:

Speaking in a weathered vane... This entire question seemed extremely odd to me. The Church is the Bride of Christ; religious often used bridal symbolism - but, until I saw this thread, I'd never in my (long) live even heard anyone ask if only CVs are the 'brides of Christ.' 

tbh, I never have either... I only started thinking about this because of the other thread...

I read Pope Pius XII's encyclical on Virginity again and it says there that everyone who has the virtue of virginity (which means a perpetual vow of chastity, as I found out) is considered a spouse of Christ. It just needs to be perpetual. Even for those who have sinned against chastity in the past, they recover the purpose of virginity if they intend on living celibately after, and if they make a perpetual vow, it seems that they recover the virtue of virginity. (I tried looking up the Summa lol). This way of looking at it would make anyone who has vowed themselves to God, His spouse. I'm still trying to figure out the link of this to the consecrated state, and what is the case for those with private vows, but the encyclical/other sources just said "vow" in general. Perhaps for CVs it's more official, more direct, like the constitutive sacramental as described in the other thread... but it doesn't mean that others can't use that imagery and that their gift to God doesn't have something spousal about it. I'm saying this because I think it's rare for someone to vow themselves to God in some way and not feel drawn to being His bride, it's a very feminine thing and tied into our identity as women

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adoro.te.devote

I also looked up the Catholic Encyclopedia article about "Virginity", and it says there about Consecrated Virgins: "After the eighth century, as enclosure became the general law for persons consecrated to God, the reason for this special consecration of persons, already protected by the walls of the monastery and by their religious profession, ceased to exist" ...this sort of suggests that religious life could be analagous to Consecrated Virginity, though those are two distinct vocations

(I'm also realizing I don't really understand the topic well, because the same article also disputes the point that there is such a thing as a "virtue of virginity", which I mentioned above. I guess there are different theories about this, and I'm not sure if either is clearly defined by the Church or not. So it's a confusing topic)

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