St. Cyril of Alexandria's Commentary on "The Bread of Life"

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
Xristos Anesti!

I hope that this message finds you all well in Christ. As the second Sunday of Pentecost is centered around the theme of Christ as the Bread of Life, I thought it would be fitting to post a commentary written by St. Cyril of Alexandria on the topic. There are a number of issues covered below, including the Eucharistic mystery, the will of Christ, and other similar topics that have recently been asked on the forums. It is a lengthy post, but I believe it is most beneficial for us to read.

I am the Bread of life

It is the custom of our Saviour Christ when explaining the more Divine and already foretold Mysteries, to make His Discourse upon them darksome and not too transparent. For He commits not His so dread word to lie unveiled before the unholy and profane indiscriminately at their pleasure, to be trodden down by them, but having veiled it in the armour of obscurity, He renders it not invisible to the prudent, but when He seeth among His hearers any foolish ones, and who understand no whit of the things spoken, He opens clearly what He wills to make known, and removing as it were all mist from His Discourse, He sets the knowledge of the Mystery before them bare and in full view, hereby rendering their |373 unbelief without defence. That it was His wont (as we have said) to use an obscure and reserved method of speaking, He will Himself teach us, saying in the Book of Psalms, I will open My Mouth in parables. And the blessed prophet Isaiah too no less will confirm our explanation hereof, and shew it in no wise mistaken, proclaiming, Behold a righteous King shall reign, and princes shall rule with judgment, and a man shall veil his words: for he says that He has reigned a righteous King over us who saith. Yet was I appointed King by Him, upon Sion His holy mountain, declaring the commandment of the Lord: and princes living together in judgment, that is, in uprightness in every thing, he calls the holy disciples who came to the Saviour Christ oftentimes veiling His words, saying, Declare unto us the parable. And He once on hearing the question, Why speakest Thou unto the multitudes in parables? is found to have declared most manifestly the cause, Because they seeing (He says) see not, and hearing they hear not, nor understand. For they were no ways worthy (it seems) seeing that God who judgeth justly, decreed this sentence upon them. The Saviour then, having devised many turns in His Discourse, when He saw that His hearers understood nothing, at length says more openly, I am the Bread, of life, and well-nigh makes an attack upon their unmeasured want of reason, saying, O ye who have the mastery over all in your incomparable uninstructedness alone, when God declares that He will give you Bread from Heaven, and has made you so great a promise in feeding you with manna, do ye limit the Divine Liberality, and are ye not ashamed of staying the grace from above at this, not knowing that it is but a little thing both for you to receive such things of God, and for God Himself to give them you? Do not then believe (saith He) that that bread is the Bread from Heaven. For I am the Bread of Life, Who of old was fore-announced to you as in promise, and shewn as in type, but now am present fulfilling My due promise. I am the Bread of Life, not bodily bread, which cutteth off the suffering from hunger only, and freeth the flesh from the destruction |374 therefrom, but remoulding wholly the whole living being to eternal life, and rendering man who was formed to be for ever, superior to death. By these words He points to the life and grace through His Holy Flesh, through which this property of the Only Begotten, i. e., life, is introduced into us.

But we must know (for I think we ought with zealous love of learning to pursue what brings us profit) that for forty whole years was the typical manna supplied to them of Israel by God, while Moses was yet with them, but when he had attained the common termination of life, and Jesus was now appointed the commander and general of the Jewish ranks: he brought them over Jordan, as it is written, and having circumcised them with knives of stone and brought them into the land of promise, he at length arranged that they should be fed with bread, the all-wise God having now stayed His gift of manna. Thus (for the type shall now be transferred to the truer) when Moses was shrouded, that is, when the types of the worship after the Law were brought to nought, and Christ appeared to us, the true Jesus (for He saved His people from their sins), then we crossed the Jordan, then received the spiritual circumcision through the teaching of the twelve stones, that is of the holy disciples, of whom if is written in the Prophets that the holy stones are rolled upon His land. For the holy stones going about and running over the whole earth, are of a surety these, through whom also we were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands in Spirit, i. e., through faith. When then we were called to the kingdom of Heaven by Christ (for this and nought else, I deem, it pointeth to, that some entered into the land of promise), then the typical manna no longer belongeth to us (for not by the letter of Moses are we any longer nourished) but the Bread from Heaven, i. e., Christ, nourishing us unto eternal life, both through the supply of the Holy Ghost, and the participation of His Own Flesh, which infuseth into us the participation of God, and effaceth the deadness that cometh from the ancient curse. |375

He that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.

There is herein again something concealed which we must say. For it is the wont of the Saviour Christ, not to contend with the praises of the saints, but on the contrary to crown them with glorious honours. But when certain of the more ignorant folk, not perceiving how great His excellence over them, offer them a superior glory, then does He to their great profit bring them to a meeter idea, while they consider Who the Only-Begotten is, and that He will full surely surpass by incomparable Excellencies. But not over clear does He make His Discourse to this effect, but somewhat obscure and free from any boast, and yet by consideration of or comparison of the works it forcibly takes hold on the vote of superiority. For instance, He was discoursing one time with the woman of Samaria, to whom He promised to give living water; and the woman understanding nought of the things spoken said, Art THOU greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well? But when the Saviour wished to persuade her that He was both greater than he, and in no slight degree more worthy of belief, He proceeds to the difference between the water, and says, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinlceth of the water that I shall give him, it shall be in him a well of water syringing up into everlasting life. And what thence does He give to understand but surely this, that the Giver of more excellent gifts must needs be surely Himself more excellent than he with whom was the comparison? Some such method then of leading and instruction He uses now too. For since the Jews were behaving haughtily towards Him, and durst think big, putting forward on all occasions their Lawgiver Moses, and often asserting that they ought to follow his ordinances rather than Christ's, thinking that the supply of manna and the gushing forth of water from the rock, were most reasonable proof of his superiority over all, and over our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, needs He did return to His wonted plan, and does not say downright, |376 that He is superior to Moses, by reason of the unbridled daring of His hearers, and their being most exceeding prone to wrath; but He comes to this very thing that is marvelled at, and by comparison of it with the greater, proves that it is small. For he that cometh to Me (He says) shall never hunger and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst. Yea (saith He) I too will agree with you that the manna was given through Moses, but they that did eat thereof hungered. I will grant that out of the womb of the rocks was given forth unto you water, but they who drank thirsted, and the aforesaid gift wrought them some little temporary enjoyment; but he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.

What then doth Christ promise? Nothing corruptible, but rather that Blessing in the participation of His Holy Flesh and Blood, which restoreth man wholly to incorruption, so that he should need none of the things which drive off the death of the flesh, food (I mean) and drink. It seems that He here calls water, the Sanctification through the Spirit, or the Divine and Holy Ghost Himself, often so named by the Divine Scriptures. The Holy Body of Christ then giveth life to those in whom It is, and holdeth them together unto incorruption, being commingled with our bodies. For it is conceived of as the Body of none other, but of Him which is by Nature life, having in itself the whole virtue of the united Word, and inqualitied, yea or rather, fulfilled with His effectuating Might, through which all things are quickened and retained in being. But since these things are so, let them who have now been baptized and have tasted the Divine Grace, know, that if they go sluggishly or hardly at all into the Churches, and for a long time keep away from the Eucharistic gift through Christ, and feign a pernicious reverence, in that they will not partake of Him sacramentally, they exclude themselves from eternal life, in that they decline to be quickened; and this their refusal, albeit seeming haply to be the fruit of reverence, is turned into a snare and an offence. |377

For rather ought they urgently to gather up their implanted power and purpose, that so they may be resolute in clearing away sin, and essay to live a life most comely, and so hasten with all boldness to the participation of Life. But since Satan is manifold in his wiles, he never suffers them to think that they ought to be soberminded, but after having denied them with evils, persuades them to shrink from the very grace, whereby it were likely, that they recovering from the pleasure that leads to vice, as from wine and drunkenness, should see and consider what is for their good. Breaking off therefore his bond, and shaking off the yoke cast upon us from his tyranny, let us serve the Lord with fear, as it is written, and through temperance shew ourselves superior to the pleasures of the flesh and approach to that Divine and Heavenly Grace, and mount up unto the holy Participation of Christ; for thus, thus shall we overcome the deceit of the devil, and, having become partakers of the Divine Nature, shall mount up to life and incorruption.

36 But I said unto you that ye have both seen Me and believe not.

By many words doth He struggle with them, and in every way urge them to salvation by faith. But He was not ignorant, as God, that they would run off to unbelief, as their sister or intimate foster sister, and would regard as nought, Him who calleth them to life. In order then that they might know that Jesus was not ignorant what manner of men they would be found, or rather, to speak more fittingly, that they might learn that they were under the Divine wrath, He charges them again, But I said unto you that ye have both seen Me and believe not. I foreknew (says He) and clearly foretold, that ye would surely remain hard, and keeping fast hold of your cherished disobedience, ye would be left without share in My gifts. And when did Christ say any thing of this kind? remember Him saying to the blessed prophet Isaiah, Go and tell this people, Hear ye in hearing and understand not, and looking |378 look and see not, for the heart of this people is waxen fat. Will not the word be shewn to be true by these things also which are before us? for they saw, they saw that the Lord was by Nature God, when He fed a multitude exceeding number which came unto Him with five barley loaves, and two small fishes, which He brake up. But they have seen and believe not, by reason of the blindness which like a mist hath come upon their understandings from the Divine wrath. For they were (I suppose) without doubt worthy to undergo this, for that they, caught in innumerable stumblings, and fast holden in the indissoluble bands of their transgressions, received not when He came Him who had power to loose them. For this cause was the heart of this people made fat.

But that the multitude of the Jews saw by the greatness of the sign that Jesus was by Nature God, you will understand full well by this too. For marvelling at what was done, as the Evangelist says above, they sought to seize Him to make Him a King. No excuse then for their folly is left unto the Jews. For astonished (and with much reason) at the Divine signs, and coming from the works proportionably to the Might of Him Who worketh, they wellnigh, shudder at their readiness to believe, and spring back from good habits, readily making a summerset as it were into the very depths of perdition.

37 All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me,

It did not behove the Lord simply to say, Ye have both seen Me and believe not, but it was necessary that He should bring in besides the reason of their blindness, that they might learn that they had fallen under the Divine displeasure. Therefore as a skilful physician He both shews them their weakness, and reveals the cause of it, not in order that they on learning it may remain quiet in it, but that they may by every means appease the Lord of all, Who is grieved at them, i. e., for just causes. For He would never be grieved unjustly, nor would He Who knows how to give righteous judgment have given any |379 such judgment upon them, were not reason calling Him thereto, from all sides hasting unto the duty of accusal. The Saviour hereby affirmed that everything should come to Him, which God the Father gave Him; not as though He were unable to bring believers to Himself, for this He would have accomplished very easily if He had so willed, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things to Himself, as Paul saith: but since it seemed somehow necessary and more fit, to say that they who were in ignorance were illumined by the Divine Nature, He again as Man attributes to the Father the operation, as to things more God-befitting. For so was His wont to do, as we have often said. But it is probable that when He says that all that He giveth Him shall be brought to Him by God the Father, He points to the people of the Gentiles now about full soon to believe on Him. It is the word of one skilfully threatening, that both they shall fall away from grace, and that in their stead shall come in all who of the Gentiles are brought by the goodness of God the Father, to the Son, as to Him Who is by Nature Saviour and Lifegiving, that they, partaking of the Blessing from Him, may be made partakers of the Divine Nature, and be thus brought back to incorruption and life, and be reformed unto the pristine fashion of our nature. As though one should bring a sick man to a physician, that he might drive away the sickness that has fallen upon him, so we say that God the Father brings to the Son those who are worthy salvation from Him. Bitter then and full of destruction is hardness of heart to them that have it. Therefore doth the word of prophecy chide the Jews, crying aloud, Be ye circumcised to God, and circumcise the hardness of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Yet not for them, but for us rather hath God the Father kept the circumcision in the heart, namely that which is through the Holy Ghost, wrought according to the rites of him who is a Jew inwardly. It is then right to flee from their disobedience, and with all zeal to renounce hardness of heart, and to reform unto a more toward |380 disposition, if we would avert the wrath that was upon them unto destruction.


  • and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.

    He says that conversion through faith will not be profitless unto them that come to Him. For He had to shew that the being brought by God the Father was a most desirable thing, and productive of ten thousand goods. Things most excellent then (saith He) shall be theirs, who through the grace from above are called to Me and come. For I will not cast out him that cometh, that is I will not discard him as an unprofitable vessel, as is said through one of the Prophets, Jechonias was despised, as a vessel whereof there is no use, he was cast away, and cast forth into a land which he knew not. Earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord, write ye this man a man proscribed. He shall not then be proscribed (saith He) nor cast forth, as one despised, nor shall he abide without share of Mine regard, but shall be gathered up into My garner, and shall dwell in the heavenly mansions, and shall see himself possessed of every hope beyond understanding of man. For eye hath not seen nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God prepared for them that love Him. It is probable that the word?, I will not cast out him that cometh to Me signify moreover, that the believer, and he that cometh to the Divine Grace, shall not be delivered over to the judgment. For you will find that the word out, has some such meaning, as in that parable in the blessed Matthew. For (saith He) the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind, which having brought up and dragged to the shore, they gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. For that the good are gathered into the Divine and heavenly Courts, we shall understand by His saying that the good were gathered into vessels: and by the unprofitable being cast away, we shall see that the ungodly shall fall away from all good, and go away into judgment. When then Christ says, Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast |381 out, let us understand that the people which cometh unto Him through faith shall never fall into torment. Most wisely does He seem to me in these words to veil a threat against those most abandoned men, that if any will not turn with all speed to obedience, they shall be deprived of all good, and be excluded even against their will from His Friendship. For wherein He promises not to cast out him that cometh, He in the same signifieth that He will surely cast out him that cometh not.

    38, 39 Because I have come down from heaven, not to do Mine Own Will but the Will of the Father That sent Me. And this is the Will of Him which sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose none of it, but should raise it up at the last day.

    This passage will seem hard to a person who considers it superficially, and not far removed from offence regarding the faith, so that they even expect us hence to fall into difficulties hard to be overcome, which come from our opponents. But there is nothing at all hard herein, for all things are plain to them that understand, as it is written, and right to them that find knowledge, that is to those who piously study to interpret and understand the mysteries contained in the Divine Scriptures. In these words then Christ gives us a kind of proof and manifest assurance that he that cometh to Him shall not be cast out. For for this cause (saith He) I came down from Heaven, that is, I became Man according to the good pleasure of God the Father, and refused not to be employed in all but undesired works, until I should attain for them that |384 believe on Me eternal life and the resurrection from the dead, having destroyed the power of death. What then was this that Christ both, willed and willed not 1? Dishonour from the Jews, revilings, insults, contumelies, scourgings, spitings, and yet more, false witnesses, and last of all, the death of the Body. These things for our sakes Christ willingly underwent, but if He could without suffering them have accomplished His Desire for us, He would not have willed to suffer. But since the Jews were surely and inevitably going to adventure the things done against Him, He accepts the Suffering, He makes what He willed not His Will, for the value sake of His Passion, God the Father agreeing with Him, and co-approving that He should readily undergo all things for the salvation of all. Herein specially do we see the boundless goodness of the Divine Nature, in that It refuseth not to make that which is spurned, Its choice for our sakes. But that the suffering on the Cross was unwilled by our Saviour Christ, yet willed for our sakes and the Good Pleasure of God the Father, you will hence understand. For when He was about to ascend thereunto, He made His addresses to God, saying, that is, in the form of prayer, Father, if it be possible, let this Cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as THOU. For that in that He is God the Word, Immortal and Incorruptible, and Life Itself by Nature, He could not shudder at death, I think is most clear to all: yet made in Flesh He suffers the Flesh to undergo things proper to it, and permits it to shudder at death when now at its doors, that He may be shewn to be in truth Man; therefore He says, If it be possible, let this Cup pass from Me. If it may be (He says) Father, that I, without suffering death, may gain life for them that have fallen thereinto if death may die without My dying, in the Flesh that is, let this cup (He says) pass from Me; but since it will not take place (He says) otherwise, not as I will, but as THOU. Thou seest how powerless human nature is found, even in Christ Himself, as far as it is concerned: but it is brought |385 back through the Word united with it unto God-befitting undauntedness and is re-trained to noble purpose, so as not to commit itself to what seems good to its own will, but rather to follow the Divine Aim, and readily to run to whatever the Law of its Creator calls us. That we say these things truly, you may learn from that too which is subjoined, For the spirit indeed (He saith) is willing, but the flesh is weak. For Christ was not ignorant that it is very far beneath God-befitting Dignity, to seem to be overcome by death, and to feel the dread of it: therefore He subjoined to what He had said the strongest defence, saying that the flesh was weak, by reason of what befits it and belongs to it by nature; but that the spirit was willing, knowing that it suffered nought that could harm. Seest thou how death was unwilled by Christ, by reason of the Flesh, and the inglory of suffering: yet willed, until He should have brought unto its destined consummation for the whole world the Good Pleasure of the Father, that is, the salvation and life of all? For doth He not truly and indeed signify something of this kind, when He says that this is the Will of the Father, that of those who were brought to Him He should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day? For as we taught before, God the Father in His Love to man brings to Christ as to Life and the Saviour, him that lacketh life and salvation.

    But I perceive that I am saying what pleases not the enemy of the truth. For he will by no means agree to the things which we have just said: but will cry out loudly, and will come with his shrill cry, Whither are you leading astray (you sir) our line of thought 2 and are devising intricate inroads of ideas and drawing away the passage from the truth? You blush I suppose (says he) to confess the involuntary subjection of the Son. For is it not hereby also evident to us, that He will never command and bear rule in the management of affairs, but is subject rather to |386 the Will of the Father? For He is conscious of so coming short of Equality with Him, that He is constrained in some sort to make what He wills not His Will, and to do not altogether as seems good to Him, but rather what pleases the Father. And do not tell me (says he) dragging the expression into the Incarnation, It is as Man that He is subject. For lo, as thou seest, He being yet God and bare Word and unentangled with Flesh, came down from Heaven, and before He was at all clothed with the form of a servant, was subject to the Father, i. e., as His Superior and Ruler.

    With dread words, good sir, as you surely deem, and swift-coursing exceedingly do you overrun us, yet are they words that go not straight forward but are scared out of the Kings beaten highway; and having left (as the Greek proverb hath it) the carriage-way, you are pressing forward upon precipices and rocks. For vainly do ye maintain against us that the Son obeys the Father, ever speaking as though any of them who deem aright thought that one ought to hold the contrary, and were not rather determined to agree with you herein. For we do not conceive of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity as ever divided against Itself, or cleft into diverse opinions, or that the Father (may be) or the Son or the Holy Ghost are severed unto what seems good to each individually, but They agree in all things, since of One Godhead, it is clear, One and the Same Will ever existeth, in the Whole Holy Trinity. Away then with a long argument with us hereon, still be the spirit that would wrangle where it least of all should, for since none is indignant thereat, it is superfluous still to press it.

    But since ye, accustomed to think and to hold most perverse things, term the Son's agreement with the Will of the Father, subjection of necessity, on this matter we will discuss with you what is right. For if this statement were put forth by you in simplicity, we too would with reason hold our peace, and not too strictly test the agreement of language. But since we see that it is put |387 forth in deep malice, we shall of necessity oppose you, trusting in the Power of the Holy Ghost, and not to our own words. For not absolutely, nor simply as His rule of conduct, nor yet for every action did. the Son affirm that He did not wholly and entirely hold by His Own Will, but He says that He kept His Father's Will in one definite act, on account of thy wresting of words (as I conceive) providing as God for our security. But He endured what He would not, and for our sakes made it His Will; I mean His Suffering upon the Cross, since so it was well-pleasing unto His Father, as we have said before. And one may see the proof straightway laid down, and the principle evidently set before us, on which (as Himself says) He left His Own Will, and fulfils the Father's. For this (He saith) is the Will of the Father that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up at the last day. And that the Suffering on the Cross was really unwilled alike and willed by the Only Begotten, hath been clearly stated before. But we shall state it again hereafter with more accurate proofs, simplifying the truth to our readers. But I will proceed first to the examination of the subjection alleged by you, it being previously laid down and unhesitatingly confessed by you, that the Wills of the Holy Trinity ever coincide into one Will and Purpose. Let those subtle disputers tell us then, whether in the name and fact of subjection the Being of the Son consists, and this is His Nature, in the same way for instance as humanity belongs to a man, or whether He, existing before in His Own Proper Mode, is subject to the Father, as one might conceive of an angel for instance, or any other reasonable power. For these things, being and existing, are recipient of the mode of subjection.

    If then ye say that the Being of the Son consists in His being subject to the Father, He will be a subjection rather and not a Son. How then (tell me) will ye not be manifest triflers? for how can this subjection be conceived to exist of itself without having its being in any of the things that are? For such things are usually the accidents of the |388 necessarily pre-existing subjects wherein they are wont to be, and not otherwise: and are viewed as belonging to substances, or befalling them, rather than having any existence in themselves. And as lust for instance, which calls and impels us to any thing, has no existence in itself, but is conceived rather in him who is recipient thereof: so subjection pointing at some sway of the will to the duty of subjection to any, will not be conceived of in its own nature, but will rather be as passion, or will, or desire, in some one of the things that are. Besides the name and fact of subjection spoken absolutely will not be conceived of as properly predicated of any one, nor will one know whether it be good or bad, unless it be added to whom the subjection is: for a man is subject to God, but also to the devil. And as the name wise is a mean term (for some are wise to do evil, and again the wise shall inherit glory, having clearly their wisdom in good things), so too subjection is a kind of mean term, and not a truth definitely expressed, for it is quite uncertain to whom the subjection is. Hence also, the Nature of the Son is left in uncertainty, if It be conceived of as (according to you) a subjection. For a subjection to what, if no one were brought forward, one could not say without falsehood. But that the subjection will not exist of itself, in its own mode of being, we bringing forward some grosser and more obvious reasoning in regard to things already made, shall see: and do thou accept a demonstration besides. For if we grant that the being of a man (for example) consists in his being subject, we shall consider that his not existing consists in his not being subject. How then was it said by the Psalmist to some one, as being indeed and existing, but not yet subjected, Submit thee to the Lord, and entreat Him? Seest thou then how utterly foolish it is to suppose that subjection has any existence in itself? One must then of necessity confess that the Son was and existed previously in His Own Nature, and so say that He was subject to the Father. What then (tell me) is there to constrain that He Who is of the Essence of His Father, |389 the Exact Impress of His Nature, should fall from His Equality with Him, on account of His being obedient? For WE who think and speak rightly, know that He is con-substantial with the Father, and give Him Equal Honour in all respects, and consider that in nought does He come short of God-befitting Divinity: but do THOU see in what manner thou canst thrust away from Equal honour with the Father on account of the alleged subjection Him who enjoys equal goods by reason of Identity of Essence.

    But this very thing (says he) will make for our side of the argument, namely that the Son is obedient to the Father, and doth not overmuch consider His Own Will, but yields rather to that of the Father, as above Him and greater than He.

    But this very thing according to your own word sir, which you think will aid your argument, you will find to be nothing but the fruit of your own unlearning. For if we were disputing, which was superior in dignity, and had the greater glory, your ever-repeated argument would even then scarce seem to have any seasonable ground. But since the mode of consubstantiality is being examined into, how shall ye not be caught in no slight folly attributing to God the Father superiority therein over His own offspring? For the terms 'greater' or 'less' or the like, we do not allow to be strictly essences (as we said of subjection) but they are something external, and qualities of essences. For that which already pre-existed and is, will be recipient (it may be) of 'greater' or ' less ' by comparison with another thing: but if there is nought before it or pre-existent, in respect to which such things would happen, how will they exist by themselves, albeit conceived of and defined under the class of accidents? Hence in telling us of greater or less ye do not touch the Essence of the Only-Begotten, nor yet That of the Father, but only with external excellences or short-comings, embellish (as ye suppose) the Father and revile the Son, although ye hear Him openly crying aloud, He that honoureth not the Son neither doth he honour the Father, and that all men ought to honour |390 the Son even as they honour the Father. For that things which can no way be severed into foreign alieniety, but have one and the same essence must be endowed with equal glory, Christ most excellently teaches in that He accepteth not to receive testimony to Himself from men, as Himself said, but came forward as Himself unto Himself a witness credible and more worthy than all that are. And He being by Nature Truth will surely say true, as one may prove from the very quality of things. For you will probably grant that the 'greater' or 'less' belong not to the very essence of ought but to the things in respect of their essence. For instance, a man will not be greater or less than another man, in respect of his being conceived of and called a man: for neither is man less than man qua man, neither is he greater than man, qua man: for the count of nature is seen to be equal in all. And the same method of reasoning will hold, of angels too, or any thing else that is made and enrolled among creation. Therefore such things are found to be utterly without place in regard to the essences themselves, but are the accidents of the essences, or of what belongs to the essences, as we have delivered above. How then will the Father be greater than the Son, God by Nature than God by Nature? For the Son having been begotten of Him, will surely compel you, even against your own will, to grant Him Con-substantiality with Him.

    It having been premised then, and unhesitatingly admitted that the Son is by Nature God, let us consider if you please, whether by paying Him equal Honour with Him of Whom He is, we shall confer honour upon the Begetter, or shall do the reverse, by insulting with less and inferior honour the Begotten, as is really and more truly the case. For it is the glory of the Father to have begotten one, such as Himself is by Nature. But the exact contrary will befall (for it is not meet to utter it), if the Son retain not the natural condition befitting Him, having inferiority either in glory or in ought else that should belong to Him, in order to be through all things manifested |391 the All-Perfect and Very God. If then He, being thus by Nature, honour the Father, mock not thereat, O man, nor be found guilty of ignorantly finding fault, where there is least occasion for it. For it were meet (I suppose) to admire Him for this too that He honours and loves His Father: for every species of virtue has, as its source and root, the Essence that is above all; in It first good things have their rise, and flow down to us, who are made after Its Image. Wherefore us too the Lawgiver bade to honour, as was due, father and mother, yea and annexed the most noble rewards thereto (for he knew, I suppose, that it was a thing most great, and so far removed from all reproach, as to be even the giver of long-enduring life). As then WE by being subject to and obeying our parents, are not rendered other in nature than they, but being as they are men of men, and having and keeping the definition of manhood perfect, we practise obedience as an excellent virtue; so conceive in respect of the Father and the Son. For He being what He is, God of God, Perfect of Perfect, Exact Impress of the Essence of His Father, thinketh nought else than He too thinketh, Whose both counsel and Word He is; and will wholly will the same as the Father, compelled by the same laws (so to say) of consubstantiality, to co-will all good things together with the Father.
  • Be no wise offended then, O man, when thou hearest Him say, I have come down from Heaven, not to do Mine own Will, but the Will of Him that sent Me. For what we said at the beginning, this we will say again. Christ said this of a definite and plain matter. For He saith these words, teaching that He willed to die for all because the Divine Nature had so counselled, but willed it not by reason of the Sufferings on the Cross, and as far as pertained to the flesh which deprecates death. And we have already expended many words: but it is convenient that we should see from the very nature of things that the suffering on the Cross was unwilled by Christ, in that He was Man. We say then that it was a work of Jewish folly, that Christ should be crucified at all, and this was immediately to |392 happen from them, who were not unpractised in boldness hereunto by means of what they had already done both to the holy Prophets, and the saints who were at that time. But since no otherwise was it possible to raise again unto life that which had fallen into death, unless the Only Begotten Word of God became Man, and it was wholly needful that made Man, He should suffer; He made what He willed not, His Will, the Divine Nature having permitted this from Love to us.

    For the Artificer of all things, Wisdom, i. e., the Son, made that which was a machination of devilish perversity, I mean His Death in the Flesh;----this He made a way of salvation to us and a door of life, and the devil's hopes were overturned, and he learned at last by experience, that hard is it for him to fight against God. The Divine Psalmist too seems to agree with what I have said of these things, and to hint at something of this sort, when he says, as of Christ and the devil, in his net shall he humble him. For the devil laid death as a net for Christ, but in his own net itself has he been humbled. For in the Death of Christ was death undone, and the tyrant who thought not to fall was brought to nought. And it were not hard to add much more to these things: but what is before us, that will we say. If the Death of Christ were not really and truly the work of Jewish wills, and the fruit of their unholy daring, but the Divine Judgment were (as some deem) the sole leading spring thereto: how needed it not that that which was determined upon should of necessity be accomplished and surely by the hands of men, and not otherwise? How then (tell me) would they who subserved the irrevocable decrees of God be yet justly punished? and how would that miserable man, through whom Christ was betrayed, have been in better case, if he had not been born? For if the Passion be conceived of as willed by the Saviour, and not unwilled in any other sense, what penalty would he reasonably pay, who was set forth minister of his Lord's Will, and of things which should surely come to pass? will it not be |393 evident to all, that the things which seem good unto the Divine and Ineffable Nature, must surely come to pass, and be done by some? From these things and many more one may see that since the Son of Man hath come down from Heaven to undergo death for all men, willing alike was He and unwilling, in order that He might raise up all at the last day, since so it pleased the Father Himself for the good of all: but He will not on these accounts that He be conceived of, as by any means of a different nature or in ought inferior to Him who begat Him.

    I suppose then that our opponent will at length blush, and not gainsay our words on this point: but if he again oppose and have settled that it is fit to wrangle yet more, I say thus, If the Son hath come down from heaven not to fulfil His Own Will, as Himself says, but the Will of the Father; and our words on the just concluded consideration thereof, haply please thee not: must not one say that Their Wills are in opposition, and that Their Counsel is divided contrarily? But this is clear to all. For if there were no hindrance, the Will in Both would be perforce wholly One: but if He put forward His Will as it were diverse from the Will of the Father, and fulfil that, how is it not foolish to say that they are One, and not other in respect of other?

    Let us see then wherein is the Will of the Father; for so shall we discern the other also, whereto it tends. The Will of the Father then, as the Saviour Himself hath said, is that of all which He hath given Him He should lose nothing but should raise it up at the last Day. And that it is good and loving none will gainsay: but transferring our considerations to the opposing will of the Son, we shall find it neither loving nor good at all, but savouring of what is wholly contrary to the Father, and willing neither to save us, nor yet to raise us up from death. How then is He yet the Good Shepherd, how gave He us a token of the Loving-kindness that is in Him, in giving His Life for us? For if He hath come down from heaven to accomplish this of voluntary Purpose, how doth He fulfil not His |394 Own Will in not destroying that which, is brought to Him, but in raising it up at the last Day? But if this was not His Will, but He subserves rather the Will of the Father, both in raising up and saving, i. e., those who were lost and overmastered of death, how shall we not be true in asserting that the Son is neither Good nor in any way Loving to man? Let the Christ-opposer then have done: his doubt being convicted on all sides of blasphemy, and let him not bay at us concerning these things with his bitter words.

    40 For this is the Will of My Father, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last Day.

    Having now defined the good Will of the Father, He makes it clear, and sets it forth more at large for the consideration of the hearers, through repeating it yet again. For what the mode of bringing is, and what any gain from being brought, He clearly explains. The Father then giveth to the Son Who hath Power to quicken them, things lacking life, He giveth thus, through knowledge inserting in each one, the true apprehension of the Son, and power to understand purely that He is God of Very God the Father, that he thus minded, and adorned with contemplations hereto belonging, may be brought to the reward of faith, that is a lasting and endless life in bliss. The Father then bringeth to the Son by knowledge and God-befitting Contemplation, those to whom He decreed the Divine grace. The Son receiveth and quickeneth them, and engrafting His Own Good into them who are of their own nature apt to decay, and shedding upon them as a spark of fire the life-giving Power of the Spirit, re-formeth them whole wholly unto immortality. But when thou hearest, that the Father brings them, and that the Son gives the power of living anew to them that run to Him, do not go off into absurd fancies, as though Each were supposed to do Individually and severally what belongs by fitness of Nature unto Each, but rather understand that the Father is Co-worker |395 with the Son, and likewise the Son with the Father, and that our salvation and recovery from death to life is the Work (so to say) of the Whole Holy Trinity. And know that the Father is sufficient unto all might and need, and likewise the Son, and the Holy Ghost: but through the Whole Holy Trinity come the good things to usward, and God the Father is found all things in all Entirely through the Son in the Spirit.

    We must nevertheless observe this also, that great is found to be the value of belief in the Son. For it hath life as its reward. But if God the Father is known in Him Who is Son by Nature, who will endure any longer them who exclude Him from the Essence of the Father, and have a mouth unbarred to blasphemy against Him? For wherein He says He can raise again to life that which has fallen into death, in these same words, without any distinction intervening, He mounts up to Identity of Nature with the Father. For quickening is a work proper to life, and since the Father is by Nature Life, Life surely will He too be conceived Who is of Him by Nature, i. e., the Only-Begotten.

    41 The Jews then began murmuring at Him, because He said, I am the Bread which came down from heaven,

    Again are they angry who of those things which are spoken by Christ understand no whit: and herein may be especially seen the uninstructed mind. For not being able to grasp the ideas, whereby they might (it is like) be trans-made unto the better, they end in unseasonable littleness of soul. For shall not we find what has been said true in respect of the Jews themselves? for why are they angry? what reason called them thereto? why do they murmur? Albeit they ought rather to have applied a more diligent mind to what was said, and from the very deeds wrought to have considered the truth, and by the miraculousness of what had been accomplished, to have come to most tried knowledge, whether Christ would lie, in calling Himself Bread, and Bread Which had come down |396 from heaven, or whether He was true, and it was really so. For in this way might they by judging aright be led easily unto the discovery of what was profitable for them: but without any enquiry they are angry, although, in what had already passed, Christ had shewn Himself the true and Very Bread of Life, contrasting Himself with the manna, which was given typically and in shadow, to their fathers in the wilderness. For he that cometh to Me (He says) shall never hunger: whereas they who eat of that manna, obtained some little and easily-lost fleshly enjoyment; but they who come to Him by faith will not attain unto an enjoyment like theirs, but will rather have a harvest of the lasting grace of the blessing.

    The mind of the Jews therefore stumbles, looking only to earthly things: and this it was that was sung of them, Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway, that they never turning them to the knowledge of the Divine Mysteries, may evil evilly perish on account of their own folly, and their most unbridled unbelief. And we calling to mind what is in the writings of Moses, shall find, that murmuring against the most excellent and good was inherent in the Jews as a sort of patrimony: but bitter its end, did experience shew both of old in the case of those and now no less with these. For those did murmur in the wilderness, and make unthankful outcry against God, but were destroyed of serpents, as the wise Paul too testified: and these murmur against Christ, and insult their Lawgiver and Redeemer by their so prolonged unbelief, but command shall be given to the serpent, and he shall bite them, as it is written: and they shall be set as a banquet before the all-devouring beast: for ever doth unbelief of necessity terminate in an all-grievous end.

    42 and said, Is not this Jesus the Son of Joseph, Whose father and mother WE know? how is it then that He saith, I have come down from heaven?

    O deep unlearning, and understanding darkened with unmixed strong drink: the heart of this people is waxen fat, |397 as it is written. For indeed they perceive not a whit of those things which they ought clearly to understand, and both think and speak things worthy of laughter. For they ought rather, exercising themselves in the writing of the all-wise Moses, and delighting themselves in the preachings of the holy Prophets to have considered, that not without flesh or bodily array was Christ expected to come to us, but in human form was it foretold that He would appear and that He should be found in this common garb of all. Therefore does the Prophet's voice tell us that the holy Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son: and the Lord is found to have sworn in truth unto blessed David, which He promised He would no wise turn from, that of the fruit of his body would He set upon His throne, as it is written: it was foretold too that there should come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse. But they rushing into so great unreason, perceive it not, supposing that since they knew the mother after the flesh of Him Who was foreannounced to come with Flesh, they ought therefore utterly to disbelieve that He had come down from heaven. For even though we do not find that this took place in regard of the Body, yet the Divine Word dwelt in His Body from the Virgin, as in His Own Temple, having come from above from the Father unto us, and for the salvation of all laid hold on the seed of Abraham that in all things He might he made like unto His brethren, and might call the nature of man unto sonship with God, being declared alike God and Man. But the Jews not understanding the economy with Flesh of our Saviour Christ, from knowing His mother and father, though he was not His father, are not ashamed of being annoyed, because Christ said He came down from heaven.

    In this too ariseth to us an example of no small profit: for hence we learn in respect to ourselves, that it will do us much harm, if we do not rather with the spiritual eyes of the heart consider the virtue that dwells in the saints, and look on the glory that is hidden in them, but on account of the frequent meanness of bodily appearance hold |398 of no value what is great before God and precious. Thus God says of the Saints in the prophets, speaking of all in the person of one, Blessed is the man that trusteth in the. Lord, and the Lord shall be his hope and he shall be as a tree vigorous by the water-side, and shall throw forth his root in moist ground, in the year of drought he shall not be afraid and shall not cease from yielding fruit. Deep is the heart above all things, and there is a man and who shall know him? I the Lord Who search the heart, who try the reins. When then WE in our arrogance depreciate him that is known of God, and admirable for the above-mentioned virtues, looking only to the outward-shewing and perishable flesh, and making meanness of body an excuse for littleness of soul towards him, how shall we not be found to be contrary-minded to the King of all, and so incur no slight doom, sometimes calling what is high low, and putting light for darkness, and sweet for bitter?
  • We must therefore keep to the saints the honour befitting them, and must look at them rather through their inward hidden glory, than what they are in the flesh. Yet most of us cannot bear to think that which is low in the world worthy at all of honour or of any glory, even though he be renowned in virtue, but looking only to the aggrandisement of riches, and beholding the perishable and even now dying glory with no righteous eyes, make no account of right judgment. Such with great reason does the disciple of the Saviour laugh to scorn, saying, Ye hypocrites, if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment, then ye tell (he saith) the rich man to sit in an honourable place, and the poor, Stand thou there or sit under my footstool, are ye not partial in yourselves? Albeit it is meet hence to observe, to how reasonable a charge they become obnoxious who admire a man for external surroundings, and not for internal goods. For riches and the glory of riches, bring in (I suppose) some foreign and factitious glory to their possessors; but the glory in the heart, and the renown of good works, |399 will be a genuine and native riches to the holders, not abiding with the flesh and. decaying with it, but dwelling with the soul while yet abiding in this life, and removing with it on its departure, whithersoever the Ruler of all shall appoint. For many the mansions with the Father, as we heard.

    We must not then honour altogether or of necessity him that is renowned for wealth, and gilt over with the petty glories of earth as in a picture, but rather them to whom the splendour of their deeds begets unfading renown from God, and their inward beauty flashes on them glorified with every form of good things.

    43, 44 Jesus answered and said unto them Murmur not among yourselves; no man can come to Me, except the Father Which sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last Day.

    The Jews look down upon Jesus, ignorant that His Father is in heaven, and in nowise acknowledging that He is by Nature Son of the Lord of all, but looking only to His earthly mother and Joseph. Wherefore He replies more warmly to them, and immediately to their profit hastens back to His very God-befitting Dignity, and whereby He knows as God both their secret murmuring and that which has gone up into their mind, through these very things He gives them to understand that they have fallen from the truth, and formed an exceeding mean conception of Him. For how was it not rather their duty to crown with now God-befitting Honour, Him Who throughly knows the hearts, and tries the motions that are in the mind, and is ignorant of no device that is in their souls, and to exalt Him as far above the littleness of man, as God is higher than the earth? He unveiling therefore the thought buried in yet unuttered blame, and making manifest the secretly whispered murmuring in them, for the reason already specified, says, Murmur not among yourselves: then shewing that the Mystery concerning Himself was a God-taught good in men, and the knowledge of Him a work of the grace from above, He says that they cannot attain unto |400 Him, save drawn by the teaching of the Father. But this is the plan of one whose only aim is to persuade them to consider, that they ought, weeping and sorrowing for those things wherein they had already grieved Him, to seek to be made free, and to be drawn unto salvation through faith in Him, through the Counsel of the Father, and the aid from above which lighteneth to them the way and maketh it smooth, which when they sinned, had become exceedingly rugged. Profitably did He confirm the promise that He would raise from the dead him that believeth, and hereby again proves to the senseless ones that He is God by Nature and Very. For that which has the power of quickening, and of compelling to return to life him that is overmastered by death, will rightly appertain to the Nature of God only, and be ascribed to no one of things originate. For quickening is a property of the Living, and not of him who receives that grace from another.

    45 It is written in the Prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Perceiving as God the folly existing in His hearers, He leaves not this His Word without witness, but shews already that He was of old fore-announced and fore-proclaimed by the holy Prophets, both taking away aforehand occasion from those who imagined that they ought to gainsay Him, and at the same time laying bare no less the unlearning that was in them, in that they were unable to see this, albeit instructed by the law unto the understanding of things to come. He persuades them therefore to consent even against their wills: for it was not likely that they would withstand the voices of the holy Prophets, that God the Father would instil the Mystery of Himself in those who were worthy, and would reveal His Own Son, ineffably speaking to each, and in God-befitting way implanting understanding thereof.

    But having said above, No man can come to Me, except the Father Which sent Me draw him, He shews that it is not a compulsory nor forcible drawing, adding, |401

    Every man that hath heard of My Father and hath learned, cometh unto Me.

    For where there is hearing and learning and the benefit of instruction, there is faith, to wit by persuasion and not of necessity: and the knowledge of Christ is given by the Father to them that are worthy, helpful as of love, rather than constraining. For the word of doctrine requires that free-will and free choice be preserved to the soul of man, in order that it may ask the just rewards of its good deeds, and if it have fallen from right, and from heedlessness have transgressed the Will of the Lawgiver, it may receive the doom of its transgression and that most reasonable.

    But we must know that even though the Father be said to instruct any in the Mystery of Christ, yet He will not work alone to this end, but will rather effect it through His Wisdom, i. e., the Son. For it is convenient to consider, that not without Wisdom will the revelation to their understanding be given to any from the Father. But the Son is the Wisdom of the Father. By means of Wisdom therefore will the Father effect the revelation of His Own Offspring in them that are worthy. And in fact to speak the whole truth, and nothing else, one would not do wrong in saying that all the operations of God the Father toward any, or His Will toward them, are those of the Whole Holy Trinity, similarly also are those of the Son Himself, and those of the Holy Ghost. For this reason, as I suppose, when God the Father is said to reveal His Own Son, and to call to Him those who are more apt to believe, the Son Himself is found doing this, and no less the Holy Ghost. For the Saviour says to the blessed Peter, who had most courageously made confession of faith in Him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood revealed it not unto thee, but My Father Which is in heaven. But in other instances He Himself is seen, doing this. And full well doth Paul boast as to himself, crying out concerning the Mystery of Christ, For I neither received it of men, neither was I taught but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. And you will see that the Holy Ghost no less reveals Christ to us. And |402 verily the most wise John writes, And YE, the anointing which ye received of Him abideth in you, and. ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things: and the Saviour Himself saith of the Paraclete, that is, the Spirit, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now: but, when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you in all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, He shall speak: and He will declare you things to come. He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine and shall tell it unto you; for being the Spirit of Truth, He will enlighten them in whom He is, and will lead them unto the apprehension of the truth. And this we say, not as severing into diversity and making wholly separate, either the Father from the Son, or the Son from the Father, nor yet the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, but since One Godhead truly IS, and is thus preached as viewed in the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, the Acts belonging to Each, and which seem to be attributed to Them severally, are defined to be the Will and Operation of the Whole Godhead. For the Divine and Unsevered Nature will work through Itself, in no divided way, so far as pertains to the one count of Godhead, although Each hath Personal Existence: for the Father is What He is, and the Son likewise, and the Holy Ghost. We must besides note this also: that things which point to ought by names, are recognised in either, and one may see the one pointed out in the other. Therefore needs is there that the Son be revealed through the Father, through the Son again the Father. For Each is surely introduced with the Other, and if any know that God is by Nature Father, he will full surely conceive of the Son That is begotten of Him; and just so the reverse. For he who confesses the Son will not deny the Father.

    Therefore in that God is Father, and is so conceived of and proclaimed, He implants the knowledge of His Own Son in His hearers: in that the Son is said to be, and is in truth, of Him by Nature, He proclaims the Father: therefore He says, as to Him, I manifested Thy Name to the men. |403 For since the Son was known by them that believed, He says that the Father's Name has been made manifest. But God the Father will be conceived of as having implanted in us the knowledge of His Own Offspring not by a voice breaking forth from above, and resounding round the earth like thunder, but by the Divine Illumination shining forth as it were in us, to the understanding of the Divinely-inspired Scripture: but unto this again you will find the Son a co-Worker in us; for it is written of the holy Disciples, Then opened He their eyes, to the understanding, that is, the holy Scriptures.

    46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.

    Having foreseen as God, that they would no wise receive the revelation through the Spirit, nor would take in the Wisdom from above in its illuminations, but would reject out of much ill-advisedness the very duty of seeing the Father and (so to say) of being instructed by very Vision of God, which as they supposed was once the case with their fathers, when the glory of God came down upon the mount Sinai: He first draws them back, and turns them as with a bridle to the duty of not having a gross conception of God, and of not supposing that the Invisible Nature will ever be visible: for no one (saith He) hath seen the Father at any time. But probably He was hinting at the hierophant Moses: for the Jews, in this also thinking very foolishly, supposed on account of his entering the thick darkness, that he saw the Ineffable Nature of God, and beheld with the bodily eyes, that which is by Nature the Untaint Beauty. But lest by saying anything more openly respecting the all-wise Moses, He should seem to be urging them to their wonted state of mind, He says indefinitely of all alike, and as of him, Not that any man hath seen the Father. Do not (says He) demand what is above nature, nor be ye borne in senseless course to that which is unattainable by all things that are made. For the Divine and Incomprehensible Nature hath retired and is withdrawn not from our |404 eyes only, but also from those of the whole creation: for in the word No one, He comprehendeth all things, and in declaring that He Alone is of God, and hath seen the Father, He putteth Himself outside of all, whereof the 'no one' may be understood declarative. But since He is apart from all, and while none hath seen the Father, He Alone misseth not the seeing Him, how shall He not henceforth be conceived of, not among all, as one of them, but external to all, as above all? And if, whereas all things are said to be of God, and none seeth the Father (for all things are of God, as Paul saith), He Alone seeth the Father because He is of God: deeming aright we shall understand the words Of God, to be of the Essence of the Father, in respect of Him Alone. For if it be not so, why, as we said before, since all things are said to be of God, doth He Alone attain unto the Sight of Him That begat Him because He is of God? Wherefore it will be less accurately said of created things (for all things are of God by creation in that they are brought into being by Him): but of the Son, in another and truer sense will His being of God, be demonstrated, as being of Him by Nature. Wherefore He, not numbered among the all, but being external to all, and above all with the Father, will not share the infirmity of all, in that He is excepted from affinity with them, but mounting up unto the Nature of Him that begat Him, will surely see Him from Whom He is.

    But how or in what manner, either He beholds the Father, or is seen of the Father, it pertains not to our tongue to say: we must nevertheless conceive of it in a God-befitting manner, 

    47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.

    Faith therefore is the door and way unto life, and return from corruption unto incorruption. But herein no less is the economy a marvel to the learners: for when He perceived that they understood nothing at all, and saw that they did not suppose they ought to give any credence even to the words of the Prophets, He cuts off, as far as possible, |405 their weakness unto faith by human arguments, by an oath to its truth. For setting before them which believe much to be envied prizes, with their longing desire for these as with traces. He all but constrains them against their will, and persuades them to come to what is proclaimed to them. For what would be more precious than eternal life, to them to whom death and the sufferings from decay are bitter? And this too will beseem a wise teacher, to re-instruct unto the better, by every way (I say) that invites unto life, them who have chosen to think foolishly. But He, being Eternal Life, promises to give Himself to them that believe: that is, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith.
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