Archive for April, 2011

“Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “  (John 12:23-26)

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we conclude our lenten remembrance of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and resurrection let us be sure that we maintain our focus on Jesus and Jesus alone! One of the problems some of us Christians have in observing Lent is that sometimes we place an excessive focus on our sinfulness – leading to an unhealthy and self-centered state of introspection and guilt. Yes, Jesus suffered and died for our sins, but our meditation during lent should not be focused on our sins or our hypocritical attempts to be holy.  Rather, we MUST focus on Jesus and  what He did for us in cleansing us of our sins and gaining the Victory Of God’s Love through His Passion, Crucifixion and  Resurrection.

We need to be like Mary of Bethany (and Magdala) who, realizing the magnificence of Jesus’ forgiveness, “… took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (Jn 12:3).  We need to magnify the Glory of God for His extravagant Mercy and Forgiveness provided through the Blood of His Son on the  Cross of calvary. And, we must glorify Jesus for giving totally of Himself in Love, subservient to the Father’s will so that The Love of the Father might be manifested for the entire universe to see.

It is all about HIM and any attempt to bring ourselves into the picture, is not only disrespectful but detracts from the Glory that belongs to Him and Him alone! Praised be His Holy Name!

The lenten experience is presented to us as a means of identifying ourselves with Jesus and His Love in a way that we come to a deeper level of understanding the Love of the Father for us and the incredible generosity of His Grace in sacrificing Himself (through His Son) to atone for all the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of time. The victory that Jesus won was completed on the Cross when He said “it is finished”, meaning, the work of redemption of humankind was completed at His death on the Cross. In eternity, before God, every sin was paid for and all humankind has been reconciled to the Father through the Blood of the Lamb!  There is nothing left for us to do but receive this Gift through Faith!

The only problem is that the world doesn’t understand an act of Love such as this.  And, not understanding, many reject this Gift of Eternal Life and Reconciliation with God, thinking instead that it is only through our own merits and suffering that full atonement for our sins can be realized. But the Grace of God and His Love will not be frustrated by mankind’s blindness, rather His magnificent Love desires that those who receive the Blessing of Salvation carry on the Ministry of Christ so that all Humanity has the opportunity to hear and receive the Good News of the Kingdom of His Love!

That is where we come in. As born-again brethren of Jesus, we are called to be the envoys of this message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) and in order to be His personal envoys the Father places the Holy Spirit within us to conform us to the Image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) so that He may empower us just as he empowered His Son!

“…. Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”.  (2 Timothy 1:9)

Our calling as disciples is to be conformed to His Image in such an intimate and complete manner that He can Live through us right now here in this world to bring forth the Father’s Kingdom of Love. For it is the Father’s intent that Jesus be the firstborn of many brethren (Rom. 8:29) so that as His Body Here on earth we can continue His Ministry to the world until He comes again!

Just as Jesus Himself was taken to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tested and prepared for His calling, so, we too need to be prepared in the “wilderness” to enter into our calling as Jesus’ disciples and envoys of His Love,

In our own “wilderness” experience the Holy Spirit separates us from the enticements of the flesh and the world to so that we may yield ourselves to Him so that He can move in us to conform us to the image of the Son and prepare us to identify with Him on the Cross of Calvary. For we cannot follow him as disciples without coming to the point where we crucify the flesh so that the life if Christ that is in us may be made manifest through us in our lives. For it is only in entering into the Crucified Life that Christ can Live through us. It must be so for us just as it was for the Apostle Paul who said, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

Return to Jerusalem

Go into all the world ...

Brethren, since we are being called to discipleship, it is incumbent on us we that we not limit our wilderness experience to a purely symbolic liturgical forty days of lent. No, we must enter a real, though vicarious, wilderness experience that must be the entry point of a life lived In Christ, For Christ and Through Christ until we can complete the divine mission to which we also have been called and to which we can also come to the point where we can say with Christ, “it is finished”.

The only manner we may enter into the Crucified Life is if we totally yield ourselves to the Spirit of Christ in us so that He and He alone is King and ruler over our lives. And that my brothers and sisters brings up my subsidiary topic, that is, that  the main reason most of us have not been able to fulfill our calling in this world is because we have let ourselves be conformed to the world rather than to Christ (Rom. 12:2).

Yes, if we are Christians at all, we accept Jesus as Our Savior who has atoned for our sins, but yet, in responding to faith for salvation, we nonetheless insist on retaining control of our lives and doing things our way – we dedicate our self-willed religious works to God rather than yielding to the Holy Spirit and letting God work His Will through us For His Glory!

Yes, because of His Great gift of salvation we are destined for heaven, but because we have not fully surrendered to Him, we constrain what God can do through us in this world so that His Will and His Kingdom may be accomplished (cf., Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2).

Unfortunately, brethren, one of the reasons we are in such a sad state is that our cultural conditioning has structured our thinking and expectations that tell us that discipleship is not for the laity and that the only role of the laity is to “Pray, Pay, and Obey”.  This conditioning boxes us in us into ” religious classes”, each with its own expectation of fulfillment. A concept far from what St. Paul taught, that each of us is a living stone in the temple of God with each of us being of equal importance to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in this world (cf.,1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 12:7-31).

Just as Jesus refused to be boxed in by the cultural expectation that he was only a “carpenter” let us also breakaway from the concept that we are only “laity”. We need to recognize that we, each of us, constitute the body of Christ and each of us is called to specifically manifest the person of Christ in whatever role or profession we may be involved in this world. The distinguishing mark of a disciple is that we love as Jesus loves (Jn 13:34-35). Only the Holy Spirit working in us can accomplish this – for it is not our work but His. This the essence and purpose for the Crucified Life.

This Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday). my friends, is the appropriate opportunity to dedicate ourselves to each other and to the Crucified LIfe in Jesus. It was at the Last Supper that the Lord Jesus offered Himself to the Father and to the Church – He, of course , carried out that dedication at Gethsemane but it was at the Supper with His Disciples that He offered Himself as the Passover Lamb:

“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  (Luke 22:19-20)

The motive for our dedication should be that, each day, there should be less of us and more of Him so that in our yielding ourselves as a Living Sacrifice to the Father, we might Glorify Jesus in accord with St. Paul’s exhortation:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

Remembering that the carrying out of this dedication is by faith. We act on that faith by submitting ourselves to the renewal of our minds through obedience to His Word as inspired by The Holy Spirit, letting His Spirit Guide you in all matters considering also the following exhortation:

“For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you …; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,  who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” (2 Timothy 1:6-9)

In conclusion my fellow pilgrims keep in mind the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart which no unworthy thought can drag downwards; an unconquered heart which no tribulation can wear out; an upright heart which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.  Bestow upon me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”  (Prayer of Thomas Aquinas)



Note:  Aside from Jesus Himself, there are many saintly souls in the church who we can model ourselves to in living a crucified life. To name a few: St, Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, and St. Therese of Lisieux (etc.), however, I, personally, have taken to a humble monk named Brother Lawrence, because  he exemplified to me how you can take any basic work or office for making a living, such as kitchen work, and  use that as your entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven by living out the Crucified Life within its limited constraints.

The Booklet about Brother Lawrence’s spirituality,  The Practice of the Presence of God. was compiled by Father Joseph de Beaufort, later vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris, after Brother Lawrence died. It became popular among Catholics and Protestants alike, with John Wesley and A.W. Tozer recommending it to others.

To find our more about Brother Lawrence’s biography see:


The Booklet may be obtained at the official “Presence of God” web site:



(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2011])

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The Prayer of the Inward Man: Praying in the Spirit

(Excerpted from “Thy Kingdom Come” by Jorge Madrid Sr. with the author’s approval)

“One thing I ask of the LORD, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and inquire in his temple”

(Psalms 27:4)

The Lord’s main intent for us in prayer is communion with Him in the Spirit. Prayer prepares us for worship – a worship that cannot be accomplished save “in Spirit and in Truth”. It therefore, behooves us to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in growing spiritually by helping us to understand how to grow in prayer so we can come to the personal intimacy with the Father for which we were created.

Let us first discuss the distinctions we humans have made in attempting to understand what true prayer entails.

A distinction is sometimes made between vocal prayer and mental prayer. Vocal prayer being that category of prayer that encompasses all prayer that is expressed in words. Mental prayer, as I understand it, refers to all non-verbal prayer that depends on using mental disciplines to reach into the depths of our inner person in such a way as to achieve communion with the Divine at the center of our being. Both of these categories of prayer, as valid as they are, involve the use of our mind in some fashion or other. What the distinction fails to capture is another mode of prayer that bypasses the mind altogether. Paul calls this category of prayer, “praying in the spirit”. Prayer in the spirit may be both verbal and non-verbal and does not involve any mental gymnastics, it is one of the spiritual gifts. This type of prayer is infused by the Holy Spirit and permits our spirits to commune directly with God[1] both with and without words.

Now, verbal and mental prayer may eventually get us to the same point (that is, at our spirit level) but it is accomplished using human effort and mental discipline. The scripture tells us that when John the Revelator was in prayer on the Lord’s day he “was in the Spirit”[2]. Now many assume that he was in a state of ecstasy and that may well be true. But the way he entered that state was most probably not through a mental discipline but through the gift of “prayer in the spirit” which is available to all Christians. Paul further tells us that the main purpose of praying in the spirit is for self-edification[3], that is, spiritual growth. Though “praying in the spirit” may get you to a state of ecstasy, the normative practice is usually much different. That is, we do not lose the use of our natural faculties, they are fully functioning and can interrupt our prayer at any time. We merely let our spirit take over in doing our praying without involving our natural mind or our emotions. There are some effects to praying in the spirit, but all of them are desirable. The most common being, a sense of great peace that permeates your being, a feeling of thankfulness to God, and an awareness of His Manifest Personal Presence. Sometimes His love comes over you so powerfully that your body trembles and you sense Him touching those places deep within you that need His healing touch. On more intense prayer occasions your body seems to float away and you drop to the floor carried away by wave after wave of His Love sweeping over you.

We must always be careful, however, not to let consolations such as these divert our motives for prayer. We pray because we are giving of ourselves to our Creator and not because of what He can give to us. There are times when there are no consolations at all but because our faith has grown we give of ourselves regardless. This is when our prayer is at its purest because it is not tinged with self-interest. True inward prayer seeks to lose our very selves in Him much as a droplet of water is loses its identity when in falls into the sea!

I would urge my readers who really desire to go deep into prayer and spiritual growth to seek this Holy Spirit- induced form of prayer rather than resorting to human methods and techniques, In order to do so, you should to seek a “release of the Holy Spirit[4] in your lives so that the Holy Spirit might provide the gifts you need to truly empower your prayer life. I assure you that this will not exclude any other mode of prayer but instead will strengthen and complement them and lead you to new levels of spiritual growth. In fact I would not move into deep meditative or contemplative prayer without the spiritual gifts.  You see, as we enter into a deeper prayer life we are basically opening up our spirits to the spirit world and without the gifts of discernment of spirits, wisdom, and knowledge, we could be caught up in a spiritual deception which might divert us from the true faith. There are forces at work in the spiritual plane, which would take advantage of our naïve and thus unprotected openness, if our spiritual senses have not the proper defenses. Because of this, it is important that before we go to deep into meditative prayer we also seek the aid of a spiritual director as well as the Gifts of the Spirit.

One of the difficulties some of us lay persons face as we attempt to grow spiritually is that we usually do not have access to adequate[5] spiritual direction.  In such cases dedicated prayer and a strong grounding in the Word of God is absolutely necessary. Remember to seek the Holy Spirit, who has promised to bring all things into remembrance, and depend on the anointing we have through Him in the inward man. That anointing is there to teach us through our spirits regarding the things of God[6].

The Pathway to Inner Prayer

It was always the Lord’s desire for His children to come to him so that they could enjoy a full relationship with Him. Until Jesus, His Son, came to redeem us however, the way to union with the Father was obstructed by man’s fallen nature.  Jesus came to be the Door or the Way to the Father. He himself said I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”[7]. By this statement Jesus was not only telling us of His role in salvation but He was also indicating to us that He, and He alone, is the only safe pathway to the Father through inner prayer. Using the imagery of Old Testament rituals, the Lord God presented this pathway to those who were sensitive to the move of His Spirit. You see, “the WAY”, “the TRUTH” and “the LIFE” that Jesus was referring to were allegorized by the design of the Tent of the Meeting (the Tabernacle of Moses).

The Tent of the Meeting (or Tabernacle), as we all know, had three principal areas:1) The Enclosure, which contained the  Altar of Holocausts and the Laver, 2) the Holy Place which was the foyer in the Tent  of the Meeting and which contained the Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Altar of Incense, 3) the Holy of Holies which contained the  Ark of the Covenant on which was the Seat of God’s Presence, The Mercy Seat.

The WAY, which Jesus referred to was the way through the entry of the enclosure to the entry to the Tent of the Meeting. Upon entry to the enclosure, Jesus is symbolized in both the Altar of Holocausts and the Laver. In His crucifixion He was our Holocaust opening the way to the Father by dying for our sins. He was also the Laver that washed us by the Word so that we could enter into the tabernacle not only covered with His blood but purified by the Word.

Once inside the Tent of the Meeting, Jesus was also the TRUTH symbolized by the Menorah because He revealed the truth of the Father to us. He is also symbolized in the Table of Showbread for He indeed was the Bread from Heaven. Because He sacrificed not only his body but His Soul as well, this was the sweet smelling incense on the Altar of incense that was the last item before the curtain to the Holy of Holies. When He died, the curtain of separation between God and man was torn open so that through Him we might have access to the Holy of Holies.

And, of course, most of all, He was symbolized in the Ark of the Covenant with its combination of wood and gold (human and divine) which was the place of God’s Presence, the LIFE.



In the same way, the symbolism of the Tent of the Meeting, may also be thought of figuratively as a guide or pathway to the different levels of inner prayer. These levels have been historically identified as: The Purgative Way, The Illuminative way, and the Unitive Way[8]. Those familiar with the mystical work, “The Cloud of Unknowing”, will also immediately associate the levels I am indicating here as corresponding  to the levels of spirituality indicated in those writings, namely,   The Common, The Special, The Singular, and The Perfect[9]. I use the symbolism of the Tabernacle because it is more meaningful to me since my spiritual journey has been guided by my meditation on scriptures. Please understand that the analogies are only useful for our human minds to attain a focus in preparing ourselves for inner prayer, they are merely the rungs on which we may ascend the spiritual ladder no matter how our mind envisions them or what metaphors we use to name them. In fact, as you will see that when we enter the phase of inner prayer that I term “the Tent of the Meeting”, we must divest ourselves of all thoughts, imagery and symbolism even our consciousness of self. For the sake of illustrating the spiritual journey, I resort to this analogy because otherwise I would not have any words to express what it involves.

When most of us begin our spiritual journey we are nowhere near the enclosure or the Tent of the Meeting. We find ourselves as the Israelites did, in the Camp, this is the “Common” level mentioned in the “Cloud”. In the Camp we are considered part of the people of God, we are under His protection, and we participate in the prayers of the community and its rituals. The world with all its temptations and terrors is outside the Camp making incursions and tempting us with its allure. Inside the Camp, we are made aware of a separation that exists between ourselves and the Tent of the Meeting where God’s Presence abides. We see a large fence of white linen (signifying righteousness/holiness) held up by poles of brass (signifying judgment) because of this we have the sense that the furthest we can approach is the entrance to the tent and then only with our sacrifice in hand.

But there is something inside of us that draws us to the Enclosure and to the Tent of the Meeting. This is the work of God’s LOVE drawing us to HIM.  It is a hunger to be part of the mystery, to enter into the Tabernacle and even into the Holy of Holies and to be enveloped in HIS LOVE. This is the hunger for God that resides in each of us, but because of the demands of Holiness we dare not enter in.  This hidden constraint within our consciences is the main reason many of us are reticent to enter into the deep inner prayer of contemplation (the Tabernacle). But this inhibition is exactly what Jesus wishes to deliver us from. He came to be the WAY for us. You see, we CAN enter in, not under our own righteousness, but under the righteousness of Jesus, our High Priest. When we come into the enclosure we, like the priests of old, exchange our woolen mortal clothing for the linen clothing of Jesus’ Righteousness. We accept for ourselves the sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross as the full payment for our sins and we wash our souls in the laver of Gods’ Word. Then with the “Water and the Blood”[10] in our hands we are ready enter in to the Tabernacle of God’s Presence

This, then, is the first level of inner prayer, The Purgative State, which also corresponds to the second level termed “Special” in the “Cloud”. It is where we come to an inner understanding of His Love and where our desire to give ourselves totally to Him is inflamed. In this level, through the Blood of the Sacrifice, we come within the enclosure and our prayer here is at the soul or mental level (sometimes termed the purgative or meditative state). At this level we renew and purify our minds through meditation on the Word to reach an understanding of our own sinfulness and what Jesus’ Death and Resurrection really means with regard to our being able to enter in to God’s Presence. At his level, even though guided by the Holy Spirit and centered on the Word of God, we see everything through the natural light of our intellect and reason. Our prayers at this level likewise emanate from our sanctified, yet very human, mental capacities. Prayer at this level is necessary because it prepares us to go into the next level, where we literally must lose our very selves.

When the Spirit leads us (and only when the Spirit leads us[11]) we begin to move from the meditative or “special” state to the next stage where we enter into the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The actual tent of the tabernacle was covered with several layers of animal skins so that the light of day could not penetrate the inner environment. So also, when we enter in to the spiritual tabernacle of our inner selves (the “Singular” state), we enter into an environment that is beyond the light of our senses, our thoughts, and our reason. In fact, when we enter in from the bright light of the outside we think that we are in darkness because we cannot detect any light, at least not any light that we are accustomed to. This darkness represents the self-deprivation of that which derives from our natural faculties because we seek only the One whom we love, the One who is unknowable and beyond the reach of our faculties, only through the spiritual impulse of our love can we draw near. It is only when we darken our senses and our thoughts that we can begin to draw near to Him who  is at the center of our being.

Speaking allegorically, after what seems an interminable duration in this state (for we begin to lose the sense of time), we begin to sense a low flickering light (in our spirit) that we think of as coming from the inner “Menorah” within us (the Spirit of Truth”). We also see before the Menorah a golden table with small loaves of bread. We have now entered into the Illuminative or “Special” stage of our prayer journey. The light we see with is that of infused knowledge (external to us) where the Holy Spirit brings us to the knowledge of the TRUTH and by that light we begin to understand God’s Love (the Showbread) expressed as His spiritual sustenance (the Bread of Life, His Word). As the Holy Spirit immerses us in this sensory deprived state we begin to lose our notion of “self” and begin to be immersed into the great river of LIFE that is streaming from the Holy Place. Just before the curtain, which separates us from the Holy of Holies, is the Golden Altar of Incense. As our final step before entering the Holy Place, we, acting in the place of Jesus, place what remains of our self-life on that altar and we offer it to the Lord as a sweet smelling offering. As the incense (our souls) is consumed, the smoke (of our outer self-life) hinders even the inner sight with which we are granted to see the holy curtain before us separating us from the Holy of Holies.

Continuing with our allegorical spiritual journey, we imagine ourselves groping to open the curtain as we enter the Holy of Holies (the Perfect stage) , the light of the Menorah, is shut out and,  again, darkness surrounds us, an even deeper darkness than before (the dark night of the spirit). As we let ourselves be absorbed into this darkness we are spiritually in a state of awe approaching despair not only because we become extremely aware of our own unworthiness but also because we sense a complete powerlessness and helplessness. After what seems a timeless period, we begin to be aware that we not only stand in the Presence but we are being drawn into it. Slowly, as we are immersed into the Presence, a Glory of Light begins to surround us such as no light we had ever experienced because it is not “light” as our senses know it. It is pure spiritual energy. It is as if we are being assimilated into this “Light” and are no longer sense ourselves as a separate entity but as one with Him, where we are permitted to understand the very Heart of God.

Then, as suddenly as it began, we find ourselves outside the Tabernacle. Later we surmise this duration to be but an infinitesimal increment of time. And yet nothing in our lifetimes will suffice or match what became of us in that timeless interval.  Likewise, there are no words to describe or even utter what has transpired because it is beyond all human thought or experience[12].

Returning to the Camp

When we return to the Camp, as we always must, we, like Moses, are entrusted to bring back to the community the vestiges of that Eternal Light which clings to us, not for our blessing but for the blessing of the persons with whom the Lord has placed us in relationship. In this way the Lord causes us to be channels of His Light and His Life to this world which lies in darkness[13]. This is why we carry an awesome responsibility to be JESUS to those around us! Praised Be His Holy Name!

“Let us then labor for an inward stillness

An inward stillness and an inward healing

That perfect silence where the lips and the heart

Are still, and we no longer entertain

Our own imperfect thought and vain opinions,

But God alone speaks in us, and we wait

In singleness of heart, that we may know

His will, and in the silence of our spirits,

That we may do His will, and do that only!”

(from “Christus: A Mystery”, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

[1] 1 Corinthians 14:2

[2] Revelation 1:10

[3] I Corinthians 14:4

[4] Sometimes this is termed the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”

[5] Adequate in the sense that the spiritual director is led by the Holy Spirit at least at the same level as the client.

[6] “ But the anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, you shall abide in him” , 1 John 2:27

[7] John 14:6

[8] cf. “STATE or WAY” in the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14254a.htm)

[9] Chapter 1 of the “Cloud of Unknowing”, Author Unknown, circa 1350 AD.

[10] 1 john 5:6

[11] Just as John the Revelator was called by the Spirit to “come up” to the heavenly tabernacle. [into (Rev. 4:1)

[12] 2 Corinthians 12:4

[13] Matthew 5:14-16

[Thy Kingdom Come! Reflections on Personal Spirituality, Prayer and Worship.

Copyright ©2006 – 2008 by Jorge Alfonso Madrid Sr.]


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