Heaven and Earth in Little Space: A Critique

This article was written by Michael LaRue, a friend of The Anglo-Catholic.  I imagine that it might stir-up some controversy here on the blog.

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Heaven and Earth in Little Space: A Critique

I have been asked to provide my rationale and facts for saying the

"What I have read of Msgr. Burnham's works in particular leads me to believe
that he is not really been converted in his thinking to a properly Catholic
approach, especially with regards to the liturgy, and that he has been
encouraged in his thinking, coming from a middle of the road if ritualistic
modern Anglican liturgical perspective, by those in the Catholic Church who
do not hold or accept the Holy Father's teaching on the faith and the

I am not impugning Msgr. Burnham's character, nor his motives, nor the
genuineness of his entry into the Catholic Church. Nor do I have any reason
to doubt that his approach to celebrating the mass is anything other than
one should expect from a good Catholic priest. I have no real reason to
doubt any of these things. I am concerned about his theological thinking,
especially as regards the liturgy, given his prominent rôle in this process.
There are a number of points I could make from things he has said, but as a
counterpoint his little book "Heaven & Earth in Little Space" has been
commended to me in refutation of my concern, and since it is precisely that
book that is the greatest source of concern, I think it sufficient to point
out something about this little book.

He obviously has great knowledge of the sacred liturgy. He has read widely,
including many Catholic sources, and he has served on the liturgical
commission of the Church of England. he also has a good sense, both for
aesthetics and for pastoral need. True he does like proposing his own
solutions for things in such a way that one wonders how he justifies them
from tradition, but he also is clearly interested in preserving and making a
place for tradition.

However, the book has a serious, I would say a fatal deficiency, from a
Catholic perspective. Having been raised in Anglicanism, in a very
"high-church" if not strictly speaking Anglo-Catholic parish, I was made
aware early on that the great temptation of Anglo-Catholics was to take on
ritual and good aesthetics without taking on a solid Catholic theology. The
result was a tasteful and ritualistic form of Liberal Protestantism, which
justifies itself by certain devotional practices and a strong emphasis on
the Real Presence. However, the dictum of H. Reinhold Niebuhr often applied:
"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." In Anglo-Catholic
circles in particular, this brand of Liberal Protestantism was notable for
talking a great deal about the incarnation, which fit with a ritualistic
worship, but lightly glossing over the cross and the sacrifice of Christ.

On the other hand one of the great things about becoming a Roman Catholic,
attending daily for a few years the Traditional Latin mass, faithful and
reverently celebrated, and meditating on the rite and the Roman Canon in
particular was to see how central the Cross was to Roman Catholic worship
and to Catholic theology, and how essential was our participation in that
sacrifice, like that of the martyrs listed in the Canon: The mass is the
unbloody representation of Calvary on our altars, whereby the priest shows
forth the sacrifice of Christ to us, and we enter into that sacrifice,
offering all of our selves as Christ did for the life of the world. The
cross is essential to understanding our worship. Nor is this perspective
absent from Anglican theology (if sadly it has been generally sidelined,
especially by its main stream). As Michael Ramsey pointed out, the world's
notion of glory is turned on its head by Christ, whose glory is a shameful
death. Without an emphasis on the Cross of Christ, the liturgy easily and
quickly becomes one or other form of aestheticism, whether baroque or
sentimental or restrained and cool it matters not, for it has lost its
power. And the people who approach worship in this fashion have lost their

Now, looking at Msgr. Burnham's book, which has, as I have said, many good
points, it is nonetheless clear that he has fallen into precisely the same
old trap of many Anglo-Catholics. He begins and ends with a fine piece of
late mediaeval poetry, precisely incarnational, which is well and good if
one uses the Incarnation to point to the cross. I was very encouraged indeed
when his first chapter began with Hebrews 10:11-12, 14. However, for the
rest of the book, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross remains little more
than a footnote. I would note how different this is from the approach of the
Holy Father, for whom the sacrifice of Christ is essential in understanding
the liturgy. True Msgr. Burnham does point us back to Calvary in his
critique of Cranmer's communion office; he points out in passing the
necessity of the crucifix on the altar, and of meditating on Christ's
sufferings. But this is always as parenthetical remarks in passing, and then
he proceeds on practically without the sacrifice and falls back on another
line of argument.

The difference in terms of worship between pagans (especially
neo-Platonists) and Christians in the ancient world had to do with how both
interpreted the word "theurgy", literally "divine work". For pagans theurgy
was a work of man in trying to open himself to the divine. For Christians,
however, theurgy was God's work in the world to bring man back to him. This
has profound consequences for the liturgy. Without the cross and sacrifice
of Christ at the center of our liturgical theology, our worship easily falls
back back into paganism, even idolatry. The liturgy becomes something we do,
something we make up even, to open our selves up to the "divine" or, in
modern theological parlance, the "transcendent". The givenness of the
liturgy, anchored in Calvary, something on which the Holy Father insists, is
lost, and thus also is lost the key role of tradition, both particular as
representing the work of God in a particular community, as well as universal
tradition. The consequence of this is that the liturgy becomes a matter of
something we make up, in which innovation and combination and creating new
forms become a ceaseless activity. As I look at Msgr. Burnham's suggestions,
it seems to me that that is exactly the kind of trap into which we are in
danger of falling.

If this were merely the matter of the developing thought of a new Catholic,
one who appears headed in the right direction, I would not worry. But we are
at a key point in the development of the Anglican Ordinariates, and to go
off course would have severe, if not fatal consequences for our mission,
which is the salvation of souls. This requires the best we have to offer,
and indeed our whole selves, which by the mighty power of God working in us,
will lead us to join ourselves in Christ's sacrifice for the salvation of
our fellow men. It requires that first things be first, that we preach and
indeed live "Christ crucified" and that we hew closely to Holy Tradition. If
we do not wish to have to answer for our failure to follow and witness to
Him before the dread judgment seat of God, then it is essential that we get
this right. It is this concern which impelled me to speak.

Michael LaRue, K.M.

Author: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organized the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He is also the CEO of Three Fish Consulting, LLC, an Information Technology consultancy based in Orlando, FL. He can be reached via email at ccampbell at threefish dot co.

23 thoughts on “Heaven and Earth in Little Space: A Critique”

  1. I have the book but have yet to read it. Personally, and I know this is old news, I'd have preferred the Ordinariate Mass to begin with SARUM as used in the reign of Queen Mary I and proceed forward from there. Beginning with the BCP and adding the Roman bells and whistles is what brings us to where we are today with the BDW. Not that Sarum was perfect but it was 'Anglican' in a more pure almost mystical sense. Use of it in Tudor English, revised for modern sensibilities would be a place to begin.

  2. Upon reading the opening paragraph of this article I became quite curious to find out what exactly had provoked its author’s great concern. Sadly, Michael LaRue makes very little reference to the actual book that he says is his “greatest source of concern”, but which Fr Aidan Nichols, a renowned scholar, has called a “highly appealing study of the Liturgy.” He does not quote the book; he does not point out anything Mgr Burnham has written that is problematic; he merely insists that Mgr Burnham, who has not only converted to the Catholic Church but brought many others with him, “has not been converted to a catholic approach” and has been “encouraged by those who don't hold the Holy Father's teachings.”

    LaRue points out the vapidity of a Christianity without a Cross, but even if in his opinion Mgr Burnham hasn’t dealt explicitly with the subject of the Cross enough in his book, that alone does not mean the Cross is absent from it. To make this point by analogy, in teaching about the Blessed Virgin Mary one is also teaching about Jesus without mentioning him by name.

    LaRue also comes close to implying that Anglo-Catholics are prone precisely as Anglo-Catholics “to take on ritual and good aesthetics without taking on a solid Catholic theology”. While many Anglo-Catholics historically did not always maintain the fullness of Catholic theology, it is entirely spurious (and the Ordinariates must combat this idea) to imply that the cause was their care for ritual and good aesthetics. While high ritual and suitable sacred aesthetics may possibly mask in some cases a faulty theology, it is in no way indicative of false theology; rather, false theology can in fact be caused by faulty ritual and unsuitable sacred aesthetics.

    LaRue says Burnham “begins and ends with a fine piece of late mediaeval poetry, precisely incarnational, which is well and good if one uses the Incarnation to point to the cross. I was very encouraged indeed when his first chapter began with Hebrews 10:11-12, 14…” But how does he know Burnham isn’t using the Incarnation to point to the Cross? It could be countered that the Incarnation inherently points to the Cross! LaRue even admits, “True Msgr. Burnham does point us back to Calvary in his critique of Cranmer's communion office; he points out in passing the necessity of the crucifix on the altar, and of meditating on Christ's sufferings.”

    Is Mr LaRue honestly suggesting a man whom Pope Benedict has made a monsignor of the Catholic Church does not accept the centrality to our faith of ‘Christ crucified’? It seems, in fact, that every specific reference he makes to the book is a positive one that counters LaRue’s main argument:
    -it uses incarnational poetry and imagery, which can point to the cross;
    -it opens with Hebrews 10;
    -it critiques Cranmer’s communion office by pointing us back to Calvary;
    -it argues for the necessity of the crucifix on the altar; and
    -it meditates on Christ’s sufferings.

    While the article contains much hyperbole, one is left wondering what in Heaven or on Earth warrants such apparently ill-founded anxiety about Mgr Burnham’s book.

    It is only fair to point readers of The Anglo-Catholic to another review of the same book – a review that makes more substantial reference to it – that of Dr Alcuin Reid, another renowned scholar, who is measured and balanced in his review of Heaven and Earth in Little Space:


    Dom Reid doesn’t necessariy agree with every point of the book, but he most certainly speaks well of it:

    “[Mgr Burnham’s] outline of ‘Anglican liturgical patrimony’ is measured and well-grounded and will be of interest.

    “Burnham brings this same standard to his discussion of the burning issues in Catholic worship…

    “This is a scholarly book, well noted and with an excellent bibliography. It is also a spiritual work… As a scholar, I may not agree with every observation or suggestion Burnham makes, but as a fellow Christian… I would certainly relish the opportunity to discuss them with, and to learn from a man of such learning and liturgical piety.

    “Heaven and Earth in Little Space is an intelligent and remarkably dispassionate work which defies the categorisation so customary in contemporary liturgical debate. It offers a fresh approach to the issues Catholics face in seeking to realise that liturgical reform so desired by Pope Benedict. This in itself is a gift to be treasured, perhaps one of the first fruits of Anglicanorum Coetibus?”

    Perhaps some of Mr LaRue’s concerns aren't so ill-founded; if so, however, it will require more than this review to demonstrate how.

  3. It is largely because of these factors, and others, that the CDF is taking so long to approve a Eucharistic rite for the Ordinariates. Other factors include the shovelling in of elements of the Sarum Use and the profound difficulty of interpreting the Book of Common Prayer in a Catholic sense. The two last are unacceptable to Rome. I was told this by one who is closely associated with the procedure.

    1. If there were such enormous issues with BCP, how did such large chunks of it get turned into BDW so easily? These elements are already approved Catholic liturgy a going into different box.

      Why there should be any problems with Sarum, unless there is some Ultramontane curial element agitating,is beyond me. It's less odd than the Maronites and more in line with Tradition than what the Neocatechumens get away with.

      My own disappointment is that the Anglican Missal and other Anglopapalist devotional texts appear not to be in line for use. Mgr Burnham's "Anglo-Catholic Devotion" showed his preference for more modern and more middle-of-the-road English styles of worship that, while perhaps mainstream in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the CoE in recent years, do not represent a significant stream in our heritage.

  4. "I am concerned about his theological thinking…"
    Elizabeth I said, " I would not open windows into men's souls." Wise words.

    1. But that did not stop her creating Catholic martyrs and doing all she could to destroy Catholicism in England root and branch.

      1. Yes, and what a pity the Pope excommunicated her, absolving her subjects of loyalty and turning loyal Catholics into traitors, treason being punishable by death! In any case Elizabeth's productivity in martyrs after 1570 was nothing like what Mary achieved during her short reign.
        Competitive victimhood is a complete waste of time; we don't need to behave like Serbs or the IRA.

        1. While I agree with your conclusion that competitive victimhood is a complete waste of time, I can't quite bring myself to swallow this self-serving Elizabethan narrative. Yes, the Pope excommunicated her and absolved her subjects of their oath of loyalty, but he never commanded or even called on her subjects to rebel. What some Catholic hotheads in England chose to do was purely their responsibility. As in all excommunications, without exception, the aim was to bring Elizabeth and her supporters into a state of penance and reconcilliation.

  5. Great wisdom here! I could not agree more with concerning the shallow estheticism of Anglicans who harp on their own view of the Incarnation but are uncomfortable with the Gospel of Christ crucified, so powerfully set forth in the Gelasian canon. I liked the bit about the lists of martyrs contained therein.

  6. I would not comment on Msgr Burnham's book but am pleased that the only Eucharistic Prayer authorized for the Anglican Use is the Roman Canon. I prefer the "silent" canon in Latin but, at least, its English translation for the Anglican Use (some attribute it to Coverdale) is elegant. The upshot is that the Cross is at the heart of the Anglican Use Mass. What Mr LaRue describes as "Anglo-Catholicism" is nowadays called "Affirming Catholicism," which is liberal protestantism with smells and bells. But there are still some Anglo-Catholics who believe the faith once delivered to the saints, Anglo-papalists (although most of us are now in full communion), and Eric Mascall's wag: "I am an ultra-Catholic, no 'Anglo' I beseech thee!".

  7. The one thing that I rarely see in the discussions on liturgy on this site is the idea that these liturgies are for real people – real Anglicans, real Episcopalians – who are going to be coming to Ordinariate liturgies (as opposed to the OF liturgies) because they want a liturgy that they are familiar and comfortable with. It seems to me that so many of our liturgists want to come up with something that is "interesting", and bringing in elements of the liturgy that haven't been used since Sarum.

    But this makes me wonder – if you are cooking up a new/old liturgy that has little emotional/spiritual resonance with our faith communities, who will come? What if what our communities want are "comfortable words" and "prayers of humble access" and those sorts of elements that resonate with them from what they currently know? You can't populate a church with liturgy wonks – there aren't enough of them out there, and communities need a critical number of real people to be viable. And there are Ordinariate communities that are made up of Catholicly-minded, liturgically broad Episcopalians. The Ordinariate is as much for them as for Anglo-Catholics. I just hope that in creating the liturgies, that those who are making the decisions are taking all Anglicans into account, and are remembering that if what they come up with has little resonance with anyone but a few, then the sustainability of the entire Ordinariate is likely in trouble.

  8. LaRue is wrong on a number of points, and Burnham has been done an unjust injury. Before reading other writebacks, here’s mine:

    1. Ritualists were not Liberals, and certainly not the 1st generation and 2nd generation of Anglo-Catholics, the Oxford Movement and the followers of Charles Fuge Lowder, respectively. Has LaRue forgotten Newman’s attack on Liberalism in the Apologia? I’ll grant that “liberal” today means something else than it did in the 19th C. Does LeRue knows this?

    2. What is wrong with “the beauty of holiness?” And I don’t think there is a danger among Msgr Burnham and his fellow folk in the Ordinariate of a kind of Shinto Christianity. The union with the Holy See obviates any concern for this. Furthermore, given the bad taste in many Catholic Masses these days, it’s the Roman Rite that needs Msgr Burnham, not the other way around.

    3. Western Church, in its soteriology, puts too much emphasis on the Cross (without denying the importance of the Cross). Our Lord’s incarnation (as the Eastern Church reminds us), His earthly ministry, His Passion, His death, His descent into Sheol (as Von Balthasar reminds us), His Resurrection (as St. Luke, St Paul, and F. X. Durwell remind us), His Ascension, the whole theology of the Paschal Mystery (which starts with Casel) – one and all are redemptive.. In fact, there are a lot of wanting, questionable, and downright bad models of the Redemption out there, such as penal substitutional atonement, or the propitiation (in the sense of “appeasing”) of a sulking wrathful god, and even the juridical views of the redemption whatsoever . The Christus Victor model of the Redemption, properly understood, is a step in the right direction, and is certainly more New Testamental.

    4. In the same way, the Mass is not just the unbloody sacrifice on the Cross; it is also the whole of the Redemption re-presented. When the priest puts the particle of the Host into the Precious Blood, the Body and the Blood are joined back together, and we have the Resurrection. And at Holy Communion the People of God receive not the dead Christ, but the Resurrected Christ.

    5. The idea that Msgr Burnham is preaching paganism and idolatry is risible and ludicrous; LaRue sounds like the screaming Neo-Calvinists and Fundamentalist Baptists in their attack on ritual. (see their contribution to the Wikipedia article q. v. Rituralism)

    I can well image that Peter Perkins will anathemize me for my remarks in ## 3 and 4. Yet given his own love of “the beauty of holiness”, especially in his rightful campaign for “sacral language”, I believe that he will today stand with me and defend Msgr Burnham against LeRue.

  9. When Andrew Burnham wrote Heaven and Earth in Little Space he was a member of the Church of England. It's perfectly appropriate that a work written by him at that time reflect his then ecclesiastical situation. Not everything John Henry Newman wrote before his reception into full communion can be given a 100% Catholic approval rating.

    1. When this book was published Mgr Burnham had not received a Catholic theological education although he was trained, I believe, at St Stephen's House, Oxford.

  10. "Not everything John Henry Newman wrote before his reception into full communion can be given a 100% Catholic approval rating."
    Should we be "concerned about his [Newman's] theological thinking" too?

  11. Dear Gretta,

    Your appeal is one that has been heard by those who have a say in these matters. This appeal is one that went into the formulation of the BDW, though rather unclear, and is also going into the new liturgical texts. The rubrics are not to be violated or ignored, and thus have been created for different ritual celebrations. Your congregation need not worry.

    That said, the Ordinariates would not exist without Anglo-Catholicism (not affirming, as Mr LaRue wrongly conflates). It was Anglo-Catholics, like Mgr Burnham, who led the way. It was Anglo-Catholics who kept appealing for a corporate solution. And it was Anglo-Catholics who worshipped Christ in the Sacrament with full Catholic ceremonial and who paid dearly the price for it (remember Alexander McConnachie, SSC) precisely because worship of the God of the universe deserves our best.

    What we want in the new Ordinariate liturgies are texts that presume, as the norm, the full compliment of Anglo-Catholic ceremonial and ritual as default, but yet has pastoral breadth for more simple ceremonial, particularly for parishes located in geographical areas, such as the American South, not comfortable with very high ritual.

    This is the approach that the Holy See would like for Ordinariates around the world, precisely, as you say, for evangelistic and pastoral reasons.

    What should be avoided however is the attempted 'squelching' of Anglo-Catholic ceremonial in the Ordinariate liturgies and other things like regular use of the same ceremonial in the modern Roman Rite. And we've also heard of 'rumblings' by some to try and stop the regular and free use of the Extraordinary Form in the American Ordinariate. Remember, the same Pontiff who promulgated Anglicanorum coetibus also promulgated the Motu Proprio, Summorum pontificum. This attitude is the opposite extreme of what you might be complaining about above and is equally damaging.

    1. Is it possible to limit the EF in any Western Rite jurisdiction? Doesn't SP override? Of course one knows of the usual methods of suppression; I mean with legal force. Can't imagine the UK Ordinary doing such a thing.

    2. Anglo-Catholic ceremonial is only the ceremonial of the Catholic Church performed on a maximal basis. For this to be done well you need proper churches and large teams. With the exception of the largely vanished revival of the Sarum Use applied to the Prayer Book Communion Office what you found (and still find) is nothing more than an imitation of Rome. However, ceremonial is less pernickety in the Catholic Church at large.

  12. I want to thank everyone for such a lively and interesting discussion on my piece. Some of the concerns expressed I have already anticipated, and some were new to me. I intend to address some of them in further writing, which, if it proves worthwhile, I hope the editor of this blog will consider.

    My old Professor of Pastoral Theology at Nashotah House, Fr. Charles Caldwell, used to say that both condemnation and affirmation were straight from hell. By this he meant that our journey in this life was a work in process, and that we neither needed to be affirmed as we are, nor damned for what we had failed to be, but warned off the bad and encouraged to perservere in becoming better. My purpose was not to condemn Msgr. Burnham, or to say that his heart was not fundamentally in the right place (I have no doubt of the latter). Nor was my critique just directed at him. I was in seminary with many of those who are coming into the Catholic Church. I was a priest in the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Ft. Worth with many of them. I know who taught many of them, and I have a very good idea (because he cites some of them) who the theological influences were on both them and Msgr. Burnham. I also have had the advantage of life as a Roman Catholic for almost two decades, in a varity of circumstances. My point was not to condemn any travelers, but to warn them, based on my knowledge of them and the dangers they face in the Catholic Church, that their going down a particular path carries with it an increased risk of falling off of a cliff.

  13. What I think is important to remember is that Ordinariate liturgies will be promulgated after approval by the proper ecclesiastical auhorities. The interdicasterial commission answering to bo the the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have a sufficent body of expertise available too them. Certainly the two thus far published, for Marriages and for Funerals, give one grounds for satisfaction.

    There are no doubt many who think they ought to have been consulted on matters liturgical, and one can, of course, expect "noises off" from those who think they know better than those, such as Mgr Burnham, who have in fact been appointed.

  14. I am increasingly disturbed by tendencies on this site attempting to dismantle our leaders. First Msgr. Steenson, now Mgr. Burnham. And in a form which I personally find destructive, approaching insulting. The indiscriminate use of comments like "What I have read of Msgr. Burnham's works in particular leads me to believe that he is not really been converted (sic) in his thinking to a properly Catholic
    approach, especially with regards to the liturgy", without making clear that the book "Heaven and Earth in Little Space" was written before Bishop Burnham became a Catholic and does not intend to be a theology of the eucharist, strengthens my concern that some contributors have a secret agenda which I want nothing to do with.

    I have read the book concerned and can witness to its meticulous and scholarly study and presentation of all sides of various arguments concerning the liturgy not only of the Mass, offering some suggestions as to ways forward, but mostly leaving the questions open, to be answered by the Church as she moves forward.

    Mgr. Burnham leaves no doubt whatsoever about his belief in the sacrificial nature of the Mass, especially when comparing Cranmer's prayer of consecration with the Roman Canon, but may I repeat that this was not his primary intention!

    In his chapter on the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms, which he carefully prefaces with a description of himself as "an outsider … attempting to describe and contribute to what is, in most senses, an internal Roman Catholic debate", he quotes Joseph Ratzinger's "The Spirit of the Liturgy" so many times as to remove any doubts about the orthodoxy of his liturgical theology.

    Very much with my tongue in my cheek and hoping to show the danger of selective criticism, allow me to make the following comments:

    I am rather concerned about Joseph Ratzinger's theology of the Eucharist, as demonstrated in his work "The Spirit of the Liturgy". When he writes that "the eucharistic celebration proper takes place in the apse, at the altar, which the faithful "stand around". Everyone joins with the celebrant in facing East, toward the Lord who is to come", he would seem to overlook that the focus in the Eucharist is not on the parousia but on Christ's sacrifice which takes place on the altar, which logically and theologically should be located in a focal position, so that priest and people can indeed stand around it. By equating priest and people facing East together, Ratzinger neglects the particular sacrificial role of the ordained priest, who takes on the person of Christ in the Mass, making present Christ's sacrifice on the altar, to which and to whom the faithful should direct their attention.

    In the same way that we should not genuflect to the tabernacle during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, placing a crucifix on the altar, as Ratzinger proposes, represents a duplication which would tend to detract from the concentration on the sacrifice taking place on the altar in direct correlation to the size of the crucifix.

    Similarly the tabernacle has no place on the altar of celebration (or behind the priest's back, by the way), and I can only hope that Ratzinger's words that "the tabernacle must also find its proper place in the architecture of our church buildings" bear this in mind. The proper place for the reserved sacrament is either in a "Sakramentshäuschen" to the side, or in a special Blessed Sacrament Chapel, where it can fulfil its role of representing God's presence outside of the Eucharist, much as the Ark of the Covenant did in the temple.

    Let's leave our leaders to fulfil their roles, support them, pray for them and us, and God will provide.

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