Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Great Lent Week - 6

Volume 4 No. 207 April 4, 2014

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Patriarch Elect Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim
Barekmore Patriarch Elect Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim
To Be Elevated on May 29, 2014 (Ascension Day)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Featured: New Beginnings and New Hopes - Shepherd Elected for Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch by George Mathew, Phoenix, AZ

His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim has been elected as the 123rd patriarch of Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch by the Holy synod held in St. Jacob Bardeus Monastery in Atchaneh, Lebanon presided by His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I Catholicose of India and his Eminence Mor Severios Hawa, Archbishop of Bagdad and Basra. ....

2. Inspiration for Today

THIS SUNDAY IN CHURCH

3. Bible Readings for This Sunday (April 6)

Bible Readings For Sixth Sunday of Great Lent (Samiyo - The Blind)
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_6th_sunday_of_Great-Lent.htm

4. Sermons for This Sunday (April 6)

Sermons for the Sixth Sunday In Great Lent

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_6th-sunday-in-lent.htm

5. Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 6 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week6.htm

6. Bringing Things To Light by John Nixon, MDiv, EdD

Jesus' healing of the blind man "illuminated" him in two ways: Physically, of course, light came into his once dark visual world. But the man was illuminated spiritually as well, as he came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. It is Christ who brings healing and wholeness to us, to restore us from the brokenness we have in our persons and in our lives. ...

7. Living in the Light of Christ By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

If we read (the passage) carefully, we will see that it was not only the authorities who were blinded by pride and ignorance. Others were blind as a result of their own circumstances and beliefs, even good people such as the apostles. This should serve as a warning to us today to be on guard against pride, ignorance and sin in our own lives and to be prepared, by the grace of God, to recognize it, root it out and leave it behind. We can see at least four groups of people who are blind, in some fashion, in this story. ...

JOURNEY TO CALVARY AND TO AN EMPTY TOMB

8. Introduction to Journey to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb by Dr. Jacob Mathew

If you examine our Lectionary (the bible reading schedules), you will see that the most often read book in the old testament, to the exception of Psalms, is Isaiah. Isaiah had been liberally quoted in the New Testament. One part of Isaiah, that is especially significant in understanding the passion of Jesus and the redemption story is what is described as the Servant Songs. There are four servant songs. These are. ...

9. The Servant Of the LORD-Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah - Part I: Introduction by Bill Randles

Before we look closely at the Evangelical jewel known as the 4th Servant Song of Isaiah, it would be good to look at the setting of this prophecy within the latter half of the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah has a curious structure. It mirrors the structure of the entire Bible. Like the 39 books of the Tanach, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are composed of pronounced judgments upon Judah, Israel, Jerusalem, the surrounding nations, and eventually engulfing the whole earth in tribulation. "The earth staggers like a drunkard…", as the LORD judges it in righteousness.

10. Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah - Part II: Behold My Servant by Bill Randles

Isaiah's prophetic Servant Songs have described an individual whom God holds forth as the answer to the idolatrous world's sad predicament. He is the one person in whom the LORD delights, and he has been given the task of restoring Israel and the nations of the world to God. ...

GENERAL ARTICLES

11. Inspirational: One Seed At A Time - How One Man Changed the Ecosystem in Assam by Sameer Vasta

A man in India single-handedly planted an entire forest, proving that one person really can make a large difference. ...In the past 30 years, his seed-planting endeavors have resulted in a massive, 1,360-acre jungle in Assam, a forest ecosystem that has left an incredible mark on the Indian landscape and stands as a testament to Payeng's dedication. ...

12. Family Special: Taken For Granted by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

Each of us has a heartfelt need to be honored and respected. All too often, however, we take our spouses for granted at home. ...

13. Health: Migraine Prevention Tips by Dr. Romie Mushtaq

Headaches are the number 3 reason women ages 18 to 44 go to emergency rooms, and the fifth-leading cause of emergency room visits among all Americans, according to a 2013 National Institutes of Health report, which calls headaches a major public health problem. ...

14. Christian Persecution - Trouble in the South India by Open Doors USA

Andhra Pradesh is India's emerging hotbed of anti-Christian violence. Church leaders in India are alarmed over a dramatic increase in attacks on Christians in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where in recent weeks one pastor has been murdered, others beaten, and churches demolished. ...

15. About Malankara World

Featured: New Beginnings and New Hopes - Shepherd Elected for Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch

by George Mathew, Phoenix, AZ


Patriarch Elect Moran Mor Ignatius Aphreim II Karim

His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim has been elected as the 123rd patriarch of Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch by the Holy synod held in St. Jacob Bardeus Monastery in Atchaneh, Lebanon presided by His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I Catholicose of India and his Eminence Mor Severios Hawa, Archbishop of Bagdad and Basra. The 48 year old patriarch elect, who was the Archbishop for the Eastern United States of America, received the name Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim. Mor Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum (1933-1957) was the 120th Patriarch of Antioch who wrote, translated and published many scholarly works on the tradition, liturgy, music, and history of Syrian Orthodox Church.

The patriarch elect was born in Qamishli (Kamishly), Syria on May 3, 1965 to Issa Karim and Khanema. Qamishli is a Syrian city 400 miles northeast of Damascus, bordering the Turkish city of Nusabayen, an ancient Aramean settlement and close to Iraq. His family originally hailed from Tur Abdin in Turkey. Tur Abdin is from the syriac language meaning 'mountain of the servants of God'.

There are lot of similarities in the lives of Patriarch elect Aphrem II and his mentor and spiritual father, the late patriarch of Antioch, Mor Zakka Iwas I. Young Karim lost his father at an early age and was raised by his loving mother late Khanema and caring relatives. In 1977, following his primary schooling in Qamishli, at the age of 12, he joined the St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon and in 1982 served the Archdiocese of Aleppo for the next two years. In 1984 he joined the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt for higher studies, and in 1988 graduated with a Bachelor Degree of Divinity.

In 1985, at the age of 20, he took the vows of a monk and was ordained to priesthood in Qamishli. In 1988 Fr. Cyril served as the secretary to His Holiness, late Moran Mor Zakka I Iwas. During this time, he was also engaged as a teacher at St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Damascus.

In 1991, he joined the St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland, where he received a License of Sacred Theology Degree, in 1992. This was followed by a Doctor of Divinity Degree in 1994, following his doctoral thesis on 'The Symbolism of the cross in early Syriac Christianity', in which the cross is traced mystically from the Garden of Eden to Golgotha and to Paradise.

On January 28, 1996, at the age of 30, Fr. Cyril was consecrated as the Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States by late Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas at St. Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church in Qamishli. Bishop Cyril arrived in the United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed to his position at St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey.

The Holy father is abundantly blessed with love and empathy for one and all, along with administrative and scholarly skills. He is fluent in Syriac, Arabic, French, English and Touroyo, a variant of Aramaic traditionally spoken in eastern Turkey and north-eastern Syria by the Aramean people. During his years as Archbishop of Eastern USA, along with establishing new parishes and required infrastructure for the spiritual nurture of his flock, he also devoted special attention and focus on initiatives aimed at addressing the concerns of youth and the elderly. He has been responsible for the translation and publication of a series of invaluable books on theology and articles by Spiritual fathers of the church. Mirroring the love of Lord Jesus to children around him, this blessed father has also authored two children's books, "In The Tree House" and "Animals from the Bible".

The patriarch elect is a firm believer in Christian unity and ecumenism and has been active in various leading roles in the WCC and National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. He also serves as a Vice- Chairman of the Standing Conference of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. He has been instrumental in the establishment of 'Christian Churches Together in the USA', a new ecumenical body of which the Syriac Orthodox Church is a founding member. He has been a strong voice for reconciliation and peace with regard to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and has appeared in national television in USA, appealing for restraint from all quarters to save the lives of suffering mutitudes of the land, especially minorities including Christians. He has close contacts with the Syrian church in Malankara (Kerala, India) which was strengthened during his many visits and also with the diaspora in Malankara Archdiocese USA headed by His Eminence Mor Titus Eldho. It is significant that, in his first speech after being elected as Patriarch, he expressed his vision and longing for unity in the Malankara church.

Let us thank the Lord for providing the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch a loving shepherd endowed with spiritual wisdom, and pray to God Almighty to strengthen and enable the Patriarch to realize his dream of Christian unity and peace for humanity everywhere.

Inspiration for Today
What Really Matters

Advertising bombards us with the message that life is all about me, it is all about now. Such messages may sell products and services, but they will cause us to sell our souls if we follow this philosophy.

We will be challenged to ask whether, in the final analysis, our life really mattered and, if so, in what way. If we live, die, and that is all there is, then it may not matter what we do. But if we believe that something about life matters because of the lasting implications our actions have, this should cause us to leave a different legacy.

I believe the spiritual side of our lives really does matter. To believe otherwise is to define persons as little more than animated protoplasm hopelessly going about our routines. If we do possess a soul capable of living beyond our lifetimes, then the seeds we plant in this life will yield fruit forever.

-- Mike Huckabee

"Whoever mocks poor people insults their Creator; gloating over misfortune is a punishable crime."
Proverbs 17:5

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (April 6)

Sermons for This Sunday (April 6)

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc.

If you only have a few minutes to spend a day, you can read short reflective articles and meditations. If you have more time, there is bible readings, and others to enrich your day.

Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 6 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week6.htm
Bringing Things To Light

by John Nixon, MDiv, EdD
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
Las Vegas, Nevada

Gospel: John 9:1-38

A top story in the news these past few days has been the National Security Agency and its acquisition of emails, cell phone records, and other electronic communications. Even Jay Leno joked about it, saying, "A big change at the White House today. They closed the gift shop and opened a Verizon store…How ironic is that? We wanted a president that listens to all Americans - now we have one."

Halfway around the world, we learned that the United States has made a unilateral offer to Swiss banks that would circumvent their cherished banking privacy laws. It's amazing, and scary, what can be learned when actions that go on in the darkness of secrecy come to light. The light that shines in the darkness loosens the power of that darkness.

Jesus said to His disciples in today's Gospel reading, "We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; [for] night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." The theme of Divine Light figures prominently in this Paschal season, and is a central focus today, the eponymously named Sunday of the Blind Man. What could be a more powerful image of light than a man who was blind from birth, being given sight? As the prophet Isaiah foresaw, "…the eyes of the blind shall be opened…" [1].

The ancient world had no understanding of hygiene, apart from certain clean practices embedded in Jewish dietary laws, and so eye diseases were very common. In this case, the man was born blind. As it happened, he didn't even ask to be healed. Jesus was walking along the road and his disciples asked about the blind man, assuming that his blindness was due to sin on his or his parents' part.

But no, not this time. Suffering doesn't always come due to sin. Usually, sickness and suffering is simply a manifestation of the fallen world in which we live, and one's affliction being the "luck of the draw," if you will. Sometimes, as in the case here, it's an opportunity for the power of God to be revealed. It's not that God was cruel to make the man blind and suffer so Jesus could come along one day and heal him. Rather, as God's strength is made perfect in weakness [2], afflictions, sorrows, pains, disappointments, and losses can become opportunities for demonstration of God's grace [3]. He may not always calm the storm, but rather, calm us in the midst of the storm - thunder clouds may be overhead, but in our hearts the Son [4] can shine.

Jesus' healing of the blind man "illuminated" him in two ways: Physically, of course, light came into his once dark visual world. But the man was illuminated spiritually as well, as he came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. It is Christ who brings healing and wholeness to us, to restore us from the brokenness we have in our persons and in our lives.

We heard in today's Epistle of another moment of spiritual enlightenment. Saints Paul and Silas found themselves thrown in jail after they exorcised a demon from a fortune-telling slave girl, who, once exorcised, lost her entrancing abilities, and for her owners, lost an income stream. After an earthquake loosed the prisoners' shackles and opened the doors, the prison guard on duty came to believe in Christ, compelled by Paul's and Silas' witness, and of course, a timely, jail-breaking earthquake. Enlightenment can happen in the most unexpected of situations.

In this Paschal season, the link, of course, is made between themes of light in the scripture readings and the light of Christ's resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ has no personal meaning if there is not an increase of light within our consciousness, it has no practical value to our souls unless God's light in our conscience directs our lives [5].

In this Paschaltide, may we open ourselves to the Light of the Resurrection. Just as Christ loosed the bonds of sin and death in His rising from the dead; just as the Holy Spirit loosed the bonds of imprisonment for Paul and Silas, may the Lord loosen those parts of our lives that are still bound in darkness, that His light may shine anew in us. Amen.

References

[1] Isaiah 35:5
[2] 2 Corinthians 12:9
[3] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol.2, Westminster Press, 1975.
[4] A little word play for readers of this transcript.
[5] A Monk of the Eastern Church, The Year of Grace of the Lord, SVP, 1980.

Living in the Light of Christ

By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

Gospel: John 9:1-41

In St. John's Gospel, there is the account of the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41). It is the sixth of the seven signs recounted by St. John that announce the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in the New Covenant and the passing away of the old rites, replaced by the grace and sacraments of Jesus Christ.

Let's take a look at the lesson of the Man Born Blind in this Gospel passage.

Jesus Christ - The Light of the World

In the very opening of his Gospel, St. John announces in the prologue that a light has come into a world shrouded in darkness:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth."

This is the proclamation of the coming of the Messiah whose announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. St. John develops the theme of Light and Darkness in chapters 9 and 10 of his Gospel.

Jesus tells us in John 9:5 that he is the Light of the World. What does the Church teach us about this passage.

Spiritual Blindness

A literal reading of this event tells us that a man who was physically blind from birth was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. The authorities focus on the fact that Jesus performed this healing on the Sabbath and accuse Him of not "keeping the Sabbath" - therefore accusing Him of sin and asserting that He cannot be sent from God. In their misunderstanding of the law and in their pride that made them fearful of losing their influence over the people, they remained closed to the work and presence of God in their midst. In this way, they too were blind - spiritually blind.

But if we read carefully, we will see that it was not only the authorities who were blinded by pride and ignorance. Others were blind as a result of their own circumstances and beliefs, even good people such as the apostles. This should serve as a warning to us today to be on guard against pride, ignorance and sin in our own lives and to be prepared, by the grace of God, to recognize it, root it out and leave it behind. We can see at least four groups of people who are blind, in some fashion, in this story:

The apostles
The Man Born
The Parents of the Man Born Blind
The Pharisees

1. The Apostles

As the recounting of the event begins, we read that the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for an extended time, they clung to the common belief of the day that some particular personal sin was the cause of this man's physical blindness. Some Jews would have thought that the man was guilty of some personal sin committed before birth, while others might have believed his blindness was due to the personal sin of his parents or other ancestors. The question raised by the apostles suggests they believed the same or possibly that the blindness was in anticipation of some sin of the man committed after he was born. Jesus does not answer their question in general, but does answer in regards to this particular man, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him."

While it is true that death and suffering in the world are the result of sin, both Original and personal, we must remember that even the righteous suffer. This is clearly taught in the Old Testament story of Job.

2. The Man Born Blind

Here was a man born blind for the glory of God. That his physical suffering prepared him to be open to receive the Light of Christ is apparent. We will see his stages of conversion in just a moment and see how his response can guide each of us in our day.

3. The Parents

At first, the authorities doubted that the man was actually blind prior to his "healing". So they called in the man's parents to receive their testimony. His parents were afraid of being expelled from the temple, so in their fear would only attest to his blindness from birth; they would not acknowledge his healing as God's work, but instead told the authorities to ask their son themselves.

4. The Pharisees

As said above, these men were puffed up in pride and were also afraid of losing their position and influence, so they refused to see the obvious - as such, they were the truly blind.

What We Can Learn

The true light has come into the world and He is Jesus. We receive this light that enlightens mankind when we are baptized. At baptism, we promise to live in the light and give testimony to Him.

But, we must not be prideful in this fact; we must honor and be faithful to our baptismal promises. Nor must we be afraid of doing so.

It is at our baptism (and even prior) that our conversion began. If we were baptized as infants, there came a time when we had acquired the use of reason when we needed to take on personally this act of conversion and surrender to the Lord. But as we should know, just as there are stages of conversion leading to that acceptance of Christ, the conversion continues until the time of our death.

There will be times when we want to cling to the ways of the world and the pressure of our peers. We will be tempted in pride to assert that we know better than God and to do it "our way". There will be times when we are afraid - afraid of losing acclaim, acceptance, wealth, prestige, and even what we mistake for love - and we will be tempted to reject the Light of the World. The message of the world is loud and persistent, and if we let it, the message can be persuasive. We will be tempted to deny the obvious - the one thing we do know with certainty - and to accept the lies of the evil one. Let's look at the example of the man born blind for guidance.

As the man born blind was cured of his physical blindness, he also underwent a healing of his spiritual blindness. We can see this in how he progressively refers to Jesus, first as "the man called Jesus" in verse 11, then "he is a prophet" in verse 17, then as "from God" in verse 33 and finally when he said, "I do believe, Lord" and worshiped Christ in verse 38.

Because this man was open to the truth, the darkness gave way to the Light and his spiritual blindness was healed also. Throughout our own days, we too are called to this ever deepening relationship with the Lord, even beyond the point of calling Him Lord and worshiping Him. This conversion must continue to deepen so that our communion with Him will deepen and we will attain our supernatural end.

The irony of the confrontation between the man and the Pharisees is shared by us in our daily confrontation with the world and our own temptations.

This man who was supposedly an inferior of the Pharisees was the more enlightened of the two. And we Christians who are not of the world, but are nonetheless in the world, are to be the more enlightened of the two also.

The Pharisees absurdly demanded that this man deny the one thing of which he was certain - that he had been born blind that that the Lord had restored to him his sight; they demanded that he accept their spiritual blindness as truth and embrace darkness as light. We can look to our own encounters with the world and see the times when we are asked to deny the one thing that we know with certainty - the love and grace of Christ our Savior - and instead we are asked to embrace the sin that this world demands that we mistakenly see as enlightenment. Absurd! Really! Could anything be more absurd than to give up eternal happiness and blessedness for a destructive pleasure and a lie?

May we ever cling to the Light that banishes the darkness which is all around us. When the world, in its own language, twists the meaning of the words of the man whose sight was restored and asks us, "Do you want to become his disciple, too?"… let us shout, unafraid and in loving faithfulness, "We do and we are!"

About The Author:

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

Source: Into the deep… The Integrated Catholic Life™

JOURNEY TO CALVARY AND TO AN EMPTY TOMB

Introduction to Journey to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Editor-in-Chief, Malankara World

We are now approaching the sixth Sunday of the Great Lent. Next Friday (Friday, April 11) is the Fortieth Day of the Great Lent. The Holy Week officially starts on Friday (although to many it starts on the Palm Sunday, April 13). So, we are approaching one of the most sacred days of the church calendar. We had been preparing for this week by fasting, praying, introspection and charitable giving. The Passion of Jesus and the subsequent Resurrection from the Dead are the differentiator of Christianity.

Malankara World Journal is planning several special/supplement issues so as to highlight the significance of these days and what they represent. Here is what is planned right now:

Issue 208 (April 8) - Temptation of Christ - Fortieth Friday (Apr 11)
Issue 209 (April 9) - Lazarus Saturday (Apr 12)
Issue 210 (April 10) - Palm Sunday - Hosanna (April 13-15) and Monday and Tues of Holy Week
Issue 211 (April 14) - Pes'ho - Maundy Thursday (April 16-17)
Issue 212 (April 16) - Good Friday (Apr 18-19) and Holy Saturday
Issue 213 (April 19) - Kyomtho/Easter (April 20) - He is Risen!! The Tomb is Empty

The first date indicates the proposed publication of the issue and the second date(s) indicate(s) the date of the event. The issues are sent earlier than the featured event due to the time differences in the world as well as to give you time to read and understand the liturgy used in the church before going to the church.

As we plan our journey, it is important to understand the Old Testament Foundations to the Liturgy. Jesus came to fulfill the prophesies and covenants made by God to Abraham and other Patriarchs. New Testament is the story of the fulfillment - how God executed the plan for the redemption of mankind from the fall in Aden.

If you examine our Lectionary (the bible reading schedules), you will see that the most often read book in the old testament, to the exception of Psalms, is Isaiah. Isaiah had been liberally quoted in the New Testament. One part of Isaiah, that is especially significant in understanding the passion of Jesus and the redemption story is what is described as the Servant Songs. There are four servant songs. These are:

  • First Servant Song from Isaiah: Isaiah 42:1-7
  • The Second Servant Song from Isaiah: Isaiah 49:1-6
  • Third Servant Song of Isaiah: Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • The Fourth Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah: Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12

We will be examining the Fourth Servant Song in detail starting today in 8 parts. Parts 1 and 2 are given following this article. The rest will follow in future issues. The first part is an introduction to the Book of Isaiah. I strongly urge you read that.

Let me give an introduction to the "servant" described by Isaiah so you will get the perspective. It is given in Isaiah 42:1-7.

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Isaiah 42:1-7

I would like to quote from Father Steve Grunow's sermon about Isaiah, Christ, and the many complexities to a story that ultimately serve to simplify, redeem and illuminate. The servant song also helps us to understand the role of "suffering" in our Christian Lives. Christ exhorted us to take His cross and follow him. Our brothers and sisters all over the world, especially in middle east, the Cradle of Christianity, are under severe persecution and two of our bishops are held captive against their will. (We don't even know if they are alive at this time.) So, the suffering takes a new meaning for us this year. Fr. Grunow explains:

In this text (Isaiah 42:1-7) the prophet reveals a mysterious figure, which he names as the servant of the Lord. The servant of the Lord has been chosen by the God of Israel for a particular mission.

The mission of this servant is the restoration of Israel. The prophet Isaiah speaks the word of the Lord from the midst of distressing and painful circumstances. The once-mighty Kingdom of David has fallen into ruin and its past glory has retreated into memory. The fall of David's Kingdom has left Israel vulnerable to the powers of the world that have seized their lands, destroyed their cities, desecrated their holy places and reduced Israel to the status of a slave. It is to this Israel, seemingly forsaken, that the servant of the Lord will come.

The Church understands Isaiah's vision of the servant of the Lord as a foreshadowing of Christ.

As one reads further in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, one discerns that the servant of the Lord will effect the restoration of David's Kingdom through his suffering and through his willingness to accept this suffering as a mission that comes from God, he will offer Israel forgiveness and hope.

That the servant of the Lord would suffer confounded many in Israel and still seems strange to us today. Humanity has tendency to read service to the Lord as by necessity resulting in material blessings. In this construal of Biblical revelation, the commitment to serve the Lord should result in deliverance from the hard facts of life and result in a life that is by all measure successful.

The tendency to equate service to the Lord with a life of good fortune represents a distortion of the totality of the biblical vision as it is viewed through the lens of Christ. God in Christ reveals that his purposes are not accomplished through an exemption from reality, but in a passage through it. This is on evident display in Christ, who accepts the reality of the human condition as his own, and by entering into the fullness of human experience, he effects its transformation. Christ does not exempt himself from suffering and death, but in his passage into both, he transforms each forever. So it will be for us as well!

The Gospel of John (John 12:1-11) sets a magnificent scene before us today.

It is in the house of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, that the Lord Jesus is anointed with the costliest of aromatic perfumes. This gesture is met with the protest and condemnation of Judas Iscariot.

John 12:1-11 is often used by Christians to justify the manner in which they lavish gifts upon the Lord, usually in expressions of art and worship. The Church's use of its resources to serve Christ in the poor are complemented by efforts to represent Christ in works of beauty and creativity. The words of Christ in this text are used to support both service to the poor, works of mercy and service to the Lord through works of culture. In both ways the mandate of Christ is fulfilled.

However, there is more to this text than a clarification in regards to the management of the Church's resources and the allocation of funds.

In this Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus is anointed, a sign of his Messianic identity and mission. Like David and the kings that followed him, Christ is anointed, which is a sign that he, like Israel's kings, has been set apart in terms of who he is and what he will do. The reference the Lord makes that connects his anointing to his burial is a foreshadowing of where his mission as Messiah will take him. The kind of Messiah he will be is revealed in the manner of his death.

During Holy Week, the Church invites the faithful to an ever deeper consideration of Christ's suffering and death. This invitation is not intended simply to garner sympathy for Christ in his passion, but to show us the kind of God and king that he reveals himself to be. The revelation of Christ as suffering servant and crucified God is troubling for us to see and many would rather just look away or diminish the blow with sentiment. Yet, the Church insists that the full meaning and importance of the identity and mission of Christ the Lord can only be discerned from the vantage point of one who is willing to look upon his cross.

Excerpted from Wordonfire by Fr. Robert Barron

I hope that you will make some time available from your busy schedule to meditate on what Jesus went through on his last days. He paid a high price for our salvation.

Continue reading ...
The Servant Of the LORD…4th Servant Song in Isaiah - Part I

by Bill Randles

Part-1 - Introduction to Isaiah and Servant Song

Scripture: Isaiah 52:13-15

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider…
(Isaiah 52:13-15)

Before we look closely at the Evangelical jewel known as the 4th Servant Song of Isaiah, consisting of the above three verses in chapter 52, and all of Isaiah 53, it would be good to look at the setting of this prophecy within the latter half of the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah has a curious structure. It mirrors the structure of the entire Bible. Isaiah's prophecy is composed of 66 chapters, (the Bible contains 66 books, [77 books in Orthodox Bible]). Like the 39 books of the Tanach, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are composed of pronounced judgments upon Judah, Israel, Jerusalem, the surrounding nations, and eventually engulfing the whole earth in tribulation. "The earth staggers like a drunkard…", as the LORD judges it in righteousness.

But the last 27 chapters of Isaiah correspond in a loose way to the "New Testament". His vision in chapter 40 begins with "A voice crying out in the wilderness…"(John the Baptist), and ends in chapter 66 with a new heaven and a new earth, (similar to the book of Revelation).*

The second part of Isaiah, (chapters 40-66) can be divided equally into 3 sections of 9 chapters each. The three sections conclude with a variation of the phrase, "There is no peace saith my God for the wicked".

  • Isaiah 48:22- There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.
     
  • Isaiah 57:20-21 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
     
  • Isaiah 66:24-And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

The first section, Isaiah 40-48, concerns the new exodus of Judah and the remnant of Israel, God's servant, out of Babylon. Isaiah had predicted that Judah would go into captivity as Israel had, but that God would redeem his servant again and restore him.

God would raise up and use another anointed servant, a pagan king named Cyrus, whom the LORD called "My servant…my anointed who will do my will…" to bring this Exodus from captivity in Babylon. King Cyrus commanded the release of the Jewish remnant and even financed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

The last section of Isaiah is a vision of the restored children of Israel and Judah, back from captivity, again reconciled to God, and restored as priests of God, radiant in the garments of salvation.

The forces of wickedness are amassing against them, but "No weapon formed against you shall prosper and any tongue which rises up in judgment against you, shall be condemned…" This section portrays the final restoration of Israel, into the Messianic Kingdom.

But this final restoration of Israel isn't the result of the aforementioned Exodus from Babylon. Israel would lapse back into captivity again and remain there for many long centuries.

This final and lasting deliverance of Israel comes to pass as a result of the person who is the primary subject of (chapters 49-58). The Messiah of Israel, is the very embodiment of "Israel my servant…", he is the ultimate Servant of the LORD, who takes Israel and the world far beyond the deliverance of "Cyrus, my servant".

There are 4 Servant Songs which emerge in Isaiah,

  • He is introduced in Isaiah 42:1-4
  • His Discouragement and ultimate triumph is sung of in Isaiah 49:1-7
  • In Isaiah 50:4-11 we hear of His discipleship under the hand of the LORD himself.
  • In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we hear the song of his redemptive sacrifice and exaltation.

Notes:

*I am indebted to a wonderful Bible teacher named David Baron for these structural insights, from his little exposition called "The Servant of Jehovah".

** (Cyrus would not come forth for another 200+ years, in the days of the Medo Persian empire. When Isaiah's prophecy was shown to him, calling him by name 200 years in the past, the Pagan king was astonished!)

Source: Bill Randles Blog

Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah - Part II: Behold My Servant

by Bill Randles

Scripture: Isaiah 52:13-15

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
(Isaiah 52:13-15)

The fourth Servant song is composed of three sections. First of all, we have this introduction in Isaiah 52:13-15. Secondly we have the great and final confession that a chastened and restored Israel will offer, after the time of tribulation and their final conflict and deliverance, (Isaiah 53:1-9). Finally there are three verses ,(Isaiah 53:10-12) which reveal the fruit of the Servant's travail.

Isaiah's prophetic Servant Songs have described an individual whom God holds forth as the answer to the idolatrous world's sad predicament. He is the one person in whom the LORD delights, and he has been given the task of restoring Israel and the nations of the world to God.

His work involves "establishing Judgment" in the earth, that is bringing the truth of God to the world which has embraced lies. It also means , setting things right, and bringing people into a right relationship with God, first of ll Israel, then the nations. Therefore, his ministry will be a ministry of the Word, he will bring "a word to the weary " from the LORD himself.

Establishing judgment also means that the Servant will be the standard of the final judgment of all men. Eternal destinies will be determined by how individuals respond to God's Servant. To hear Him is to hear God, to accept Him is to accept God, God cannot be known except by Him, He who refuses the Servant of God, condemns himself.

His manner with people will be gentle, restorative, for He will not discard "the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flax". He calls all who are "weary and heavy laden" to come unto Him, that they might find rest for their souls.

Though he is chosen of God and fully equipped for the task, He is human also, and subject to discouragement, and weariness at times. But his personal comfort comes from his constant reliance upon God, for He is God's own disciple.

Finally, we already have seen hints that the Servant's work will involve suffering, humiliation and rejection. He is the one "Despised of the people" and who "gave his cheek " to be plucked.

Thus says the Lord, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers:(Isaiah 49:7)

I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.(Isaiah 50:6)

We come now to the beginning of the fourth and most detailed Servant Song which details the reasons for His suffering, and of the glory which will surely follow,

*Behold My Servant Shall deal prudently…In other words, "See that my servant shall act wisely", He is the LORD's servant, he has been sent on a mission, he has a task to accomplish. Echoes of Psalm 40 come to mind here, in which the pre-incarnate Son of God discusses his mission with the Father, in eternity,

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.(Psalm 40:6-8)

The servant knows what needs to be done to bring men back into right standing with God, and He doesn't hesitate to do it, regardless of the personal cost". One translation says, My Servant's wisdom shall prosper. In other words, His wisdom was effective, he took the action that brought about the desired result.

*…he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high… This is a sentence which is breathless, as if to say, "He shall be raised… no, not just raised… but He shall be lifted up…and yet more than that…He shall be highly exalted!" Thus Isaiah predicts that the Lord's servant shall be thrice exalted. Could this be a reference to the Resurrection, Ascension, and Seating at the right hand of the Majesty on High?

As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:… But people will look at the Servant in horror, they will be appalled at the sight of Him. Shockingly, His face will be disfigured, He will almost not look human!

How do we reconcile the exaltation of the Servant with this vision of horror? The Servant will be Exalted, lifted up, highly exalted ? Yet He will be a picture of disfigurement,pain, and rejection? This is the theme of the fourth Servant Song,

*…So shall he sprinkle many nations;… The partial answer is that humiliation of the Servant will serve to fulfill some kind of priestly ministry. He will sprinkle many nations, as Moses and Aaron and the long line of God appointed priests of the Old Testament would do, ritually sanctifying the worshippers with the blood of sacrifice.

*…the kings shall shut their mouths at him… Kings of the earth shall be dumbfounded at him, they will have nothing to say, their mouths will be stopped, that is how overwhelmed they will be at Him. Who is this one, so disfigured and rejected that men turn away from him in abject horror? Yet who also is this glorious one who is thrice exalted, and before whom ‘every knee' must one day bow ?

*…for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider… As the truth begins to dawn on the Kings of the earth of who this "despised one" truly is and what He did, they are awestruck. They could never have conceived of the actual truth that reconciles the horror,suffering and disfigurement of the Servant, with his exaltation, ascension and glory, unless God had shown them something that had never entered into their thoughts.

What is it specifically that these Kings will "see" without being told? They will perceive that the one whom the world has hated, condemned, humbled and persecuted, is actually the one chosen by God himself, fully vindicated and exalted by the Holy One. Who could ever imagine such a thing? It can only be revealed as truth by God!

Source: Bill Randles Blog

GENERAL ARTICLES

Inspirational: One Seed At A Time - How One Man Changed the Ecosystem in Assam

by Sameer Vasta

A man in India single-handedly planted an entire forest, proving that one person really can make a large difference.

You always hear that one person can make a large difference in the world. Today, we've got a story that proves that saying.

When he was a teenager in Northern India's Assam region about 30 years ago, Jadav "Molai" Payeng began planting seeds in a sandbar near his birthplace. A few years later, he moved into the area and turned the seed-planting and tree-nurturing into his life's work, planting seeds and helping them grow over a wide area that was initially left for desolate.

In the past 30 years, his seed-planting endeavors have resulted in a massive, 1,360-acre jungle in Assam, a forest ecosystem that has left an incredible mark on the Indian landscape and stands as a testament to Payeng's dedication.

Initially, the forest department told Payeng that trees could not grow in that area. He was not dissuaded; instead, he dedicated himself to the task of nurturing the forest, and his dedication has produced results. The Molai woods, in addition to being covered with lush greenery, is now home to a whole host of creatures big and small, including birds, deers, rhinos, tigers, and elephants.

Jadav "Molai" Payeng is a hero to those animals, to the ecosystem in the area, and to conservationists across India. But he is also a hero to us, people living oceans away who don't necessarily work in forestry or in the environment industry. Payeng is a hero because he has proven that with commitment, blood, sweat, knowledge, and dedication to making a difference, one person can truly make a difference, and a large difference, on the world.

It's easy to discount the impact that we can have on the people and places around us. It's easy to feel insignificant when faced with the enormity of the issues that surround us. But it's important to remember that our actions, no matter how small they may be, make a difference. Whether it's bringing a smile to someone's day or revitalizing a forest ecosystem, the little acts of kindness and good have enormous impact.

Our small actions may not necessarily lead to a forest and safe haven for animals, but they have the potential to grow and flourish all the same.

Family Special: Taken For Granted

by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

"Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10

Each of us has a heartfelt need to be honored and respected. All too often, however, we take our spouses for granted at home. Is it any wonder that so many mothers hold down jobs in the workplace today? Many work for financial reasons, but some do so to find the recognition and praise they don't get from their mates. Could this also be why many men spend excessive hours at work - to receive from colleagues the accolades that they don't get at home?

Your partner is a jack-of-all-trades who brings a host of skills to your marriage: provider, short-order cook, nurse, counselor, financial planner, gardener, arbiter of sibling disputes, spiritual leader, comforter, and much more. We encourage you to show your appreciation for these talents and services. Tell your wife how much you enjoy her cooking. Send your husband to work with a note praising him for his good judgment with the family budget. In front of guests, compliment her taste in home decor and his wise guidance of the children.

If we don't make our mate feel honored and respected, we may find our partner looking for recognition somewhere else.

Just between us…

What couple do we know who is an example to us of honoring each other?
Do we honor each other well?
What opportunities to bestow honor have we missed?

Have we sought recognition elsewhere because we weren't receiving enough at home?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for any self-centeredness or lack of consideration in our marriage. Please teach us to make honoring our spouse a reflex action, not a begrudging afterthought. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Health Tip: Migraine Prevention Tips

Got a Headache? You're Not Alone

Neurologist & Mind-Body Doc Shares Natural Migraine Prevention Tips

Headaches are the number 3 reason women ages 18 to 44 go to emergency rooms, and the fifth-leading cause of emergency room visits among all Americans, according to a 2013 National Institutes of Health report, which calls headaches a major public health problem.

"The key to preventing headaches is, of course, to figure out what's triggering them," says Dr. Romie Mushtaq, a neurologist, mind-body physician and an expert in Mindful Living. "While migraine and stress headaches can both be triggered by stress, migraines have many other possible triggers and they vary from one individual to the next."

Dr. Romie has counseled thousands of headache sufferers and recently launched a six-week online seminar, Heal Your Headaches. She guides participants through ruling out various triggers, and shares traditional and holistic treatment options, among other information.

"It's so important to educate people who suffer from headaches, especially migraines. There are many misconceptions about them," she says. "I've had patients tell me they don't have migraines because their headache isn't accompanied by vomiting. Or they've been told they just have a low threshold for pain, even that they have no willpower!"

Dr. Romie advises patients to begin ruling out possible triggers.

"Start eliminating common food triggers from your diet, such as wine, chocolate and gluten, and if the headaches become less frequent or go away altogether, slowly add each item back," she says. "It may quickly become apparent what's triggering your headaches."

If not, she shares other possible triggers people are not aware of:

Are you getting enough sleep?

Migraines can be triggered by sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep can actually lead to structural changes in the proteins of the brain that make the trigeminal nerve more sensitive to pain. The trigeminal nerve supplies sensation to the face, head and meninges – the membranes surrounding the brain -- and it is the nerve pathway that is the foundation of the where migraine headaches start.

When we are stressed, our sleep gets disturbed, and headaches are often one of the first signs. Creating a routine at night to reduce stress prior to bedtime is a key. If you can't sleep because of headache pain, talk to your doctor about the temporary use of sleep-aid medications.

Also, avoid caffeine after 12 p.m.

Are you drinking enough water?

If you start feeling pressure or a dull headache at work, especially in the afternoon, it may be that you're not drinking enough water during the day. Dehydration can cause fatigue, loss of focus and mid-day stress, which can trigger headaches, including migraines. Be sure to drink water throughout the day.

If you're having trouble identifying your headache trigger, consider this natural therapy:

Feverfew for prevention:

Feverfew is one of many effective herbs studied for preventing migraine headaches -- it has been studied in adults, but not children or pregnant women. The typical dose is 85 to 100mg daily. If you're experiencing more than two migraine headaches a month, you should try this natural supplement. I don't recommend one brand over another; since brands are not regulated by the FDA, there is no scientific way to prove one is superior to another.

While these tips may help you gain control over your headaches, remember – anyone who has recurring headaches should see a physician, Dr. Romie says.

About Dr. Romie Mushtaq

Dr. Romie is a mind-body medicine physician and neurologist. She did her medical education and training at the Medical University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Michigan, where she won numerous teaching and research awards. She brings to healing both her expertise of traditional Western training and Eastern modalities of mindfulness. Her website is www.brainbodybeauty.com.

Christian Persecution - Trouble in the South India

Andhra Pradesh is India's emerging hotbed of anti-Christian violence

Church leaders in India are alarmed over a dramatic increase in attacks on Christians in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where in recent weeks one pastor has been murdered, others beaten, and churches demolished.

The All India Christian Council documented 72 incidents of anti-Christian violence and hostility in Andhra Pradesh in 2013, nearly double the 39 recorded in 2012. Today the state, India's fifth-most populous, has the country's highest rate of anti-Christian incidents, according to the All India Christian Council.

"The jump from 39 incidents in 2012 to 72 incidents in 2013 is alarming, and the reasons for this escalated growth on the Christian minorities is the culmination of every effort of the right-wing political party to woo the majority of the communal agenda in the coming election of 2014," Moses Vatipalli, a project coordinator for the All India Christian Council, told WWM.

India's "communal agenda" arises from the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's promotion of "a clear vision of India's civilizational consciousness," which it says "has its roots in Bharatiya or Hindu world view." In that view, according to the party, "almost all religions practiced in different parts of the world have existed peacefully in India and will continue to do so."

The reality is somewhat different. The BJP is the ruling party in three of the five Indian states with laws that forbid forced religious conversions - laws that frequently are used to shut down churches or intimidate Christians who speak about their faith. The party has proposed stiffer penalties in one of those states, Madhya Pradesh, India's second-largest.

Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, another BJP-ruled state with anti-conversion laws on the books, is "the poster child for India's failure to punish the violent," said Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Commissioner Mary Ann Glendon in a joint November opinion column.

While under BJP rule, Karnataka state had the country's highest rate of attacks against Christians from 2010 through 2012. In early 2013 the Indian National Congress Party took over; the number of attacks dropped from 50 in 2012 to 28 in 2013, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians.

The BJP holds only two of the 294 seats in the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly, but has been making inroads across India, including advances in two state assemblies during December elections. National parliamentary elections are scheduled for May, and Narendra Modi is the BJP's candidate for prime minister.

Meanwhile, pressure on Christians continues.

On Dec. 28 in the town of Narketpally in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh, Suverthamma Moses responded to a late-night knock at the door and was struck on the head with an iron bar, then stabbed. When her husband, Nama Moses, a Baptist pastor, rushed in, he was stabbed multiple times.

"The attack took less than 10 minutes while three extremists were standing outside the house. The neighbours later came to their rescue and rushed them to the Kameneni Hospital," Franklin Sudharkar, General Secretary of the All India Christian Council, told World Watch Monitor.

Moses and his wife survived the attack. Sudharkar said the Hindu Vahini, a nationalist youth organization suspected in the Dec. 28 stabbings, have severely injured at least six pastors in Andhra Pradesh.

On Jan. 10 in Vakirabad town, armed Hindu Vanihi militants knocked at the door of Hebron Church pastor O. Sanjeevi's house, then hit his wife with an iron rod after she opened the door. The attackers stabbed Pastor Sanjeevi eight times. He died three days later, leaving behind his wife and four children.

"About 250 church members he looked after felt bewildered and deprived by the incident," an area church leader, Rev. Madhusudan Das, of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told World Watch Monitor.

In response to the killing, the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches petitioned the state chief minister and the National Human Rights Commission of India to improve protection for Christians.

On New Year's Eve, extremists in the town of Rajamundry set fire to a worship centre operated by a church named Dr. John Wesley of Young Holy Team, after the church members had conducted a night service.

And the morning of Feb. 2, a Sunday, the Bethel Gospel church building in Hyderabad, a western district of Andhra Pradesh, was burned to ashes.

Source: Open Doors USA © Copyright 2014 Open Doors

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