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Bible Commentaries

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide
1 Corinthians 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-34

CHAPTER11

SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER

The Apostle proceeds to deal with the third point put before him, that of the veiling of women; for the Corinthians had asked of S. Paul whether or no women ought to be veiled. He replies that they ought, and especially at the time of public prayer, and he supports his decision by five reasons. (I.) that womanly honour and modesty demand it (vers5,14); (2.) that they are subject to men (vers7 et seq.); (3.) that if they go forth with uncovered head they offend the angels (ver10); (4.) that nature has given them hair for a )covering (ver15); (5.) that this is the custom of the Church (ver16).

The second part of the chapter (ver17) treats of the Eucharist, and in this he censures as an abuse that in the agape, or common meal, the rich excluded the poor, and sat apart by themselves, giving themselves to self-indulgence and drunkenness. Then (ver23) he gives an account of the institution of the Eucharist by Christ, and declares the guilt and punishment of those who approach unworthily, and bids each one examine himself before he approach to it.

Ver1.—Be ye followers of me, even as also I am of Christ. This is a continuation of the preceding chapter. Imitate me, 0 Corinthians, in that, as I said, I do not seek my own advantage but that of many, that they may be saved; and in this I imitate the zeal of Christ, who sought not His own good but our salvation, and to gain it descended from heaven to earth, took our flesh, toiled, and gave Himself to the death of the Cross.

Ver2.—Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things. He here passes on and paves the way for a fresh question. In the following verses he proceeds to censure the abuses of the Corinthians in suffering their women to go unveiled, and in approaching the Eucharist when full of wine and mutual discords, and according to his custom he softens his rebuke that the Corinthians may take it the more readily and kindly, in the same way that physicians sugar their pills. He says, therefore, "I praise you that ye remember me in all things," which, as Erasmus says, means "that ye keep in memory all my things," or, as Euthymius says, "that ye are mindful of everything that belongs to me" Supply "precepts, teachings, or exhortations" after "all." All these precepts, &c., must be understood with some limitation, and must mean that most of them were kept by the better sort of the Corinthians, for in other parts of this Epistle he censures some faults of the Corinthians, and especially in this chapter their abuse of the Eucharist, as a departure from the ordinance of Christ and His own precepts.

As I delivered them to you.—The Greek gives, when translated literally, as even Beza admits, "Ye keep the traditions as I delivered them to you." Hence, since these traditions were not committed to writing by the Apostles, for no previous letter to the Corinthians containing a record of them is extant, it plainly follows that not everything which concerns faith and morals has been written down in Holy Scripture, and that S. Paul and the other Apostles delivered many things by word of mouth. This is even more clearly stated in vers23,34. It is evident, moreover, from the fact that before that had been written which S. Paul here writes about the Eucharist, &c, the Corinthians were bound to obey the precepts respecting them given by Christ and S. Paul, as he says himself in ver23. The law preserved in tradition binds equally with the written law. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others.

Ver3.—But I would have you know, that . . . the head of Christ is God. S. Paul here lays the foundation for his precepts about the veiling of women. We must bear in mind that the Corinthian women were greatly given, not only to lust, but also to the worship of Venus, so much so that a thousand maidens were every day exposed as prostitutes at her temple and in her honour. (Cf. notes to chap. vi. at the end.) Moreover, they thought this to be to their own honour and an act of piety, and they hoped to conciliate the goddess in this way to bestow upon them and their daughters, or to continue to them, a happy marriage. They were consequently wanton, and forward to attract lovers by exposing their features and displaying their form; and this was regarded at Corinth as a custom honourable, becoming and elegant, and Christian women thought that they ought to retain the custom of their fathers. Some of the Corinthians whose minds were of a higher cast advised S. Paul of this fact, and put to him the question whether it was lawful or becoming, for Christian women to go about with uncovered head, and especially in the Church. Paul replies that it is neither becoming nor lawful, and he begins here to give his reasons. The first is that the woman is subject to the man as her head, therefore she ought to be veiled; again, man is subject to God as His image, and therefore he is not to be veiled. In vers7,10 he proves both conclusions.

Head here has the meaning of lord, superior, or ruler. So God, as being of a higher nature, is the head and ruler of Christ as man; while Christ, as being of the same nature with the Church, is her Head, and that, as S. Thomas says, in four ways: (1.) by reason of conformity of nature with other men, for Christ as man is the Head of the Church; (2.) by reason of the perfection of His graces; (3.) by reason of His exaltation above every creature; (4.) by reason of His power over all, and especially over the Church. So the man, S. Thomas says, is head of the woman in four ways: (1.) He is more perfect than the woman, not only physically, inasmuch as woman is but man with a difference, but also in regard to mental vigour, according to Ecclesiastes 7:28: "One man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found." (2.) Man is naturally superior to woman, according to Ephesians 5:22-23: "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife." (3.) The man has power to govern the woman, according to Genesis 3:16: "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (4.) The man and the woman enjoy conformity of nature, according to Genesis 2:18: "I will make him an help meet for him."

Vers4,5.—Every man praying, &c. This is the second reason: It is disgraceful for a man to be veiled, and, therefore, the honour, freedom, and manliness of man require that he veil not his head, but leave it free and unconstrained. On the other hand, it is disgraceful for a woman not to be veiled, for womanly honour and modesty require a woman to veil her head; therefore the woman ought to be veiled, the man ought not. The phrase, "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth," does not use "prophesieth" in its strict, and proper meaning of uttering a prophecy or an exposition, but in the improper sense of singing hymns or psalms to the praise of God. For S. Paul is here speaking of the public assembly, in which he does not allow a woman to speak or to teach, but only to sing her part well when the whole congregation sings. Prophet means singer in 1 Chronicles 25:1, and in 1 Samuel 10:10. So Saul is said to have been among the prophets, that is among the singers of praises to God. So in the Books of Kings those are called prophets who served God with praises.

Some explain "that prophesieth" to mean "that hears prophecy;" but "prophecy" has never this passive meaning. Moreover, the Apostle here means any woman, whether unmarried, virgin, married, or unchaste. He bids all alike to go veiled. So Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c4,5) lays down, and adds that the Corinthians understood this to be S. Paul"s meaning, for up to that time, he says, they follow S., Paul"s injunction, and veil their wives and daughters.

Ver6.—For if a woman be not covered, let her also be shorn. For here is not causal, but an emphatic continuative. It is as disgraceful for a woman to have her head uncovered as to have her hair cut short or cut off. Heretics infer from this that it is wrong for religious virgins to be shorn; but I deny that it follows; for the Apostle is speaking in general of women living in the world, especially of married women, who are seen in public in the temple: he is not speaking of religious who have left the world. These latter rightly despoil themselves of their hair, to show (i.) that they contemn all the pomp of the world, (2.) that they have no husband but Christ. This was the custom at the time of S. Jerome, as he says ( Ephesians 48 ad Sabin.). The Nazarites did the same (Num. vi5).

It may be urged that the Council of Gangra (can17) forbids virgins to be shorn under pretext of religion. I reply from Sozomen (lib. iii. c13) that this canon does not refer to religious, but to heretical women, who left their husbands and against their will cut off their hair, in the name of religion, and donned man"s dress.

It is these that the Council excommunicates, as Baronius rightly points out (Annals, vol. iv.). Add to this that religious virgins wear a sacred veil instead of their hair.

It should be noticed that, although Theodosius (Codex Theod. lib27 , de Epis. et Cler.) forbade virgins to be shorn in the West, that is to say, younger women not living within the walls of a monastery, but wishing to profess a religious life of chastity in the world, his reason was to prevent scandal, which would be caused if, as sometimes was the case, they happened to fall away into the ordinary secular life. This actually happened in the very same year that this law was passed by Theodosius, as Baronius has well pointed out (Annals, A.D390). Sozomen, too (lib. vii. c26), gives the same reason for its being passed. A young matron at Constantinople, and of noble birth, and a deaconness, had been, it would seem, seduced by a deacon; and when, according to custom, by the order of her confessor she was making a public confession of certain sins, she proceeded to confess also this sin of fornication to the great scandal of the people; and because of this Nectarius abolished public confession and the office of public penitentiary. Still it has ever been the common practice of the Church that virgins, when taking vows of religion, should be shorn. S. Jerome ( Ephesians 48) says that in Egypt and Syria women who had dedicated themselves to God were accustomed to cut off their hair. He says: "It is the custom of the monasteries in Egypt and Syria, that both virgin and widow who have vowed themselves to God, and have renounced and trodden underfoot all the delights of the world, should offer their hair to be cut off, and afterwards live, not with head uncovered, which, is forbidden by the Apostle, but with their heads both tied round and veiled." Palladius (in Lausiaca) is our authority for saying that the Tabeunesiot, an order of sacred virgins founded by S. Pachomius in obedience to the command of an angel, did the same. Moreover, S. Basil (in Reg. Monach.) prescribes, that at the very beginning of the monastic life the head should be shaven, for he says that this well becomes him who is mourning for his sins.

Ver7.—For a man indeed ought two to cover his head, inasmuch as he is the image and glory of God. This is a hendiadys, for man is the image of the glory of God, or the glorious image of God, in whom the majesty and power of God shine forth most clearly. He is placed on the topmost step in nature, and is as it were God"s vicegerent, ruling everything This is the major of a syllogism of which the minor is: but the glory of God must be manifested, the glory of man hidden. Therefore, since woman is the glory of the man, the man of God, it follows that woman should be veiled, that the man should not. S. Anicetus (Ep. ad. Episc. Galliæ) takes this verse of the Apostle chiefly of men in the ranks of the clergy, and of priests in particular, who, in obedience to S. Paul, ought not only to have their heads uncovered, but also a tonsure in the shape of a crown, as S. Peter had (Bede, Hist. Ang. lib. v. c23 , and Greg. of Tours, de Glor. Conf. c. xxvii.), to represent Christ"s crown of thorns and the contumely endured by S. Peter and his fellow Apostles, from which they expect a crown of glory in the heavens.

It should be remarked that in the Old Testament the high-priest offered sacrifices with bare feet and covered head, i.e., wearing his mitre (Exod. xxviii37), but in the New Testament the priests offer the sacrifice of the Mass with their feet shod and with uncovered head. Epiphanius says (Hres8o) that, in the New Testament, Christ, who is our Head, is conspicuous and manifest to us, but was veiled and hidden from the Jews in the Old Law. However, the Apostle is evidently referring here to all men in general, not to the clergy only.

It is not contrary to this precept of the Apostle for our priests, when they celebrate, to use the amice among the other vestments, for they do not cover the head with it while sacrificing, but only use it round the opening in the chasuble (Rupert, de Div. Off. lib. i. c10). The amice is not used, then, to cover the head, but to represent the ephod of the high-priest under the Old Law, as Alcuin and Rabanus say, or to signify the veil with which the Jews bound the eyes of Christ (S. Matthew 26:67). Cf. Dom. Soto, lib. iv. dist13 , qu2 , art4 , and Hugh Vict. de Sacr. lib. ii. c4.

But S. Paul wishes to abolish the heathen custom, first instituted, say Plutarch and Servius, by neas, of sacrificing and making supplication to their gods with veiled head. Tertullian (in Apol.) remarked this distinction between Christians and heathen, and Varro (de Ling. Lat. lib. iv.) records that the Roman women, when sacrificing, had their heads veiled in the same way.

But the woman is the glory of the man. Woman was made of man to his glory, as his workmanship and image; therefore she is subject to him, and should be veiled, in token of her subordination.

The woman, that is the wife, is the glory of the man, his glorious image, because God formed Eve out of the man, in his likeness, so that the image might represent the man, as a copy the model. This image is seen in the mind and reason, inasmuch as the woman, like the man, is endowed with a rational soul, with intellect, will, memory, liberty, and is, equally with the man, capable of every degree of wisdom, grace, and glory. The woman, therefore, is the image of the man, but only improperly; for the woman, as regards the rational soul, is man"s equal, and both man and woman have been made in the image of God; but the woman was made from the man, after him, and is inferior to him, and created like him merely. Hence the Apostle does not say that "the woman is the image of the man," but only "the woman is the glory of the man." The reason is no doubt the one that Salmeron has pointed out, that woman is a notable ornament of man, as given to him for a means to propagate children and govern his family, and as the material over which he may exercise his jurisdiction and dominion. For man"s dominion not only extends to inanimate things and brute animals, but also to rational beings, viz., to women and wives.

Vers8 , 9.—For the man is not of the woman . . . but the woman for the man. By two reasons he proves that the woman is the glory of man as her head—(1.) that woman is of later date than man, produced from him, and consequently man is the source and principle from which woman sprang. (2.) She was created to be a help to the man, the sharer of his life, and the mother of his children. As, then, man is the beginning from which, so is he the end for which woman was made. Hence the woman is the glory of the man, and not vice versâ.

Ver10—For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. There is no good authority for reading "veil" instead of "power," as some do. We should observe: (1.) Power denotes here the authority, right, or rule of the man over the woman, not of the woman herself. The reference is to Gen. iii16. (2.) Power, by metonymy, signifies here the symbol of the man"s power, the veil which the woman wears on her head to signify her subjection to her husband"s power, and to denote that the man, as it were, is enthroned upon and holds dominion over her head. Power here, then, is used with an active meaning with regard to the man, with a passive in regard to the woman; for a veil is worn by one who reverences the power of another. As a bare and unconstrained head is a sign of power and dominion, so when veiled it is a sign that this power of his is as it were veiled, fettered, and subdued to another. Hence Tertullian (de Cor. Mil, c. xiv.) calls this covering worn by women, "The burden of their humility," and (de Vel. Virg. c. xvii.) "their yoke." S. Chrysostom calls it "The sign of subjection;" the Council of Gangra (sess. xvii.), "The memorial of subjection." (3.) From this covering it was that, by the Latins, women are said nubere, that is, caput obnubere, when they pass into the power of a husband. On the other hand, in the case of a man, a cap was the badge of the freedman, as Livy says at the end of lib45. Hence slaves who were to be enrolled as liable to military service, were said to be called "to the cap," that is, to liberty.

Because of the angels1. The literal sense is that women ought to have a covering on the head out of reverence to the angels; not because angels have a body, and can be provoked to lust, as Justin, Clement, and Tertullian thought—this is an error I exposed in the notes to Gen. vi.—but because angels are witnesses of the honest modesty or the immodesty of women, as also of their obedience or disobedience. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, S. Thomas, Anselm.

2. Clement (Hypotypos, lib. ii.) understands by "angels," good and holy men.

3. Ambrose, Anselm, and S. Thomas take it to mean priests and Bishops, who, in Rev. ii., are called angels, and who might be provoked to lust by the beauty of women with uncovered heads. Hence Clement of Alexandria (Pd. lib. ii. c10) thinks that this bids them cover, not merely their heads, but also their forehead and face, as we see the more honourable do in church. But the first meaning is the most literal and pertinent.

This reverence that is due to the angels is the third reason given by S. Paul why women should cover their heads. It is especially to be shown in church, for angels fill the church, and take notice of the gestures, prayers, and dress of every one present. Hear what S. Nilus relates happened to his master, S. Chrysostom, not once or twice (Ep. ad Anast.). He says: "John, the most reverend priest of the Church at Constantinople, and the light of the whole world, a man of great discernment, saw almost always the house of the Lord filled with a great company of angels, and especially whilst he was offering the holy and unbloody sacrifice; and it was soon after this that he, full of amazement and joy, related what he had seen to his chief friends. "When the priest had begun," he said, "the most holy sacrifice, many of these Powers immediately descended, clad in the most beautiful robes, barefooted, and with rapt look, and with great reverence silently prostrated themselves around the altar, until the dread mystery was fulfilled. Then they dispersed hither and thither through the whole building, and kept close to the bishops, priests, and deacons, as they distibuted the precious body and blood, doing all they could to help them.""

S. Chrysostom himself (Hom. de Sac. Mensa) says in amazement: "At the altar cherubim stand; to it descend the seraphim, endowed with six wings and hiding their faces. There the whole host of angels joins the priest in his work of ambassador for you." S. Ambrose, commenting on the first chapter of S. Luke, speaks of the angel who appeared to Zacharias, and says: "May the angel be present with us as we continually serve at the altar, and bring down the sacrifice; nay, would that he would show himself to our bodily eyes. Doubt not that the angel is present when Christ comes down and is immolated." S. Gregory (Dial. lib. iv. c58) says: "Which of the faithful doubts that at the moment of immolation, the heavens are opened at the voice of the priest, that the choirs of angels are present in this mystery of Jesus Christ; that the lowest are joined to the highest, things earthly with divine, that things visible and invisible become one?" S. Dionysius Areopagites (Clest. Hierarch. c. v. and ix.), says that angels of the highest order preside over the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the administration of the sacraments. Tertullian (de Orat. c. xiii.), censuring the custom of sitting during the Mass, says: "If indeed it is a mark of irreverence to sit down under the very eyes of one whom you fear and reverence, how much more impious is it to do so in the sight of the living God, while the angel of prayer is still standing? What else is it but to insult God because we are tired of praying?" John Moschus (in Prato Spir. c50) relates that a Roumelian Bishop, when celebrating Mass in the presence of Pope Agapitus, suddenly stopped, because he did not see as usual the descent of the Holy Spirit; and when the Pope asked him why he stopped, he said, "Remove the deacon from the altar who holds the fly-flap." When this had been done, the wonted sign was given, and he finished the sacrifice. Metaphrastes (Vit S. Chrys.) says that the same thing happened to S. Chrysostom, through a deacon casting his eyes on a woman.

We should note (1.), that out of modesty and dignified reserve head-coverings were worn in the time before Christ by the women of Juda, Troy, Rome, Arabia, and Sparta. Valerius Maximus (lib. vi. c. .3) relates the severe punishment inflicted by C. Sulpicius on his wife: he divorced her because he had found her out of doors with uncovered head. Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. xiii). says: "The Gentile women of Arabia will rise up and judge us, for they cover, not only the head, but also the whole face, leaving only one eye to serve for both, rather than sell the whole face to every wanton gaze." And again (de Cor. Milit. c. iv.) he says: "Among the Jewish women, so customary is it to wear a head-covering that they may be known by it." As to the Spartan women, Plutarch (Apophth. Lacon.) records that it was the custom for their maidens to go out in public unveiled, but married women veiled. The reason was that the one might so find husbands, while those who already had husbands might not seek to attract the attention of other men. But, as Clement of Alexandria says (Pdag. lib. ii. c. i. c), that it is a reproach to the Spartans that they wore their dress down to the knee only, so neither are their maidens to be praised for going forth in public with unveiled face, for in that way maiden modesty was lost by being put up for sale.

2. Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. ii.) blames those women who used a thin veil, because it was a provocation to lust rather than a protection to modesty, and was borrowed more from the custom of Gentile women than of believers in Christ. In chapter xii. he calls those women who consulted their mirrors for evidence of their beauty, sellers of their chastity. Moreover, S. Justin, writing to Severus (de Vit Christ.), hints plainly enough that Christians at that time abhorred mirrors. In short, Tertullian wrote a treatise (de Vel. Virg.) on this very point, to prove that all women, married or unmarried, religious or secular, should be veiled, any custom to the contrary notwithstanding, because so the Apostle enjoins. The Corinthians he says, (cap4), so understood S. Paul, and up to that time kept their maidens veiled. Moreover, the reasons given by the Apostle apply to all women alike, so that any breach of the precept ought to be censured and corrected. In some places, e.g., maidens go abroad with the head wholly uncovered, to show their beauty and attract a husband, when all that they really do is to peril the chastity of themselves and others, and to expose themselves daily to the wiles of panders, and hence we see and hear of so many shipwrecks to chastity.

Let, then, a maiden be veiled, and go abroad covered, lest she see herself what she ought not, or others be too much attracted by her features. For those who have ruined themselves, or slain others through the eye, are not to be numbered, and therefore the greatest watch should be kept over the eyes. Hence Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c15), says: "Every public display of a maiden is a violation of her chastity," no doubt meaning that any one who walks about freely with roving eyes and exposed face, to see and be seen, is easily robbed of the purity of her mind. This very want of control is an index that the mind is not sufficiently chaste. Hence Tertullian goes on to say: "Put on the armour of shame, throw around thee the rampart of modesty, raise a wall about thy sex which will suffer neither thy eyes to go out nor those of others to come in."

3. The head-dress of sacred virgins formerly consisted of a bridal-veil, of which Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c15) says: "Pure virginity is ever timid, and flies from the sight of men, flees for protection to its head-covering as its helmet against the attacks of temptation, the darts of scandal, against suspicions and back-bitings." He adds that it was usual to solemnly bless these veils, whence the virgins were said to be wedded to God. Innocent I. (ad Victric. Ep. ii. c12) says too: "These virgins are united to Christ in spiritual wedlock, and are veiled by priests." These virgins lastly were clad in a dark-coloured dress, and covered with a long cloak. On the other hand Lucian, (Philopater) thus satirises the first dress of Christian men: "A sorry cloak, bare head, hair cut short, no shoes." They went then bare-footed, or at all events like the Capuchins, wearing only sandals.

Ver11.—Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. This is to be referred to ver9 , not to the words immediately preceding, which by some Bibles are rightly put in a parenthesis. Having said, in ver9 , that the woman was created for the man, the Apostle, lest he might seem to have given to men an occasion for pride, to women of indignation, here softens the force of it by adding that in marriage neither can man be without woman, nor woman without man. Each needs the other"s help, and that "in the Lord," that is, by the will and disposition of the Lord. Cf. S. Ambrose and the following verse.

"In the Lord" may also be understood "in Christ, by Christian truth and law." The rule of Christian law and of God"s ordinance is that the husband and wife give mutual help, procreate children, and educate them piously. This seems to be a reminder to married people of their duty to each other, and of Christian piety.

Ver12.—As the woman is of the man, &c. The first woman, Eve, was formed from, man; man is conceived, formed, born, propagated through woman: all is done, ordered, and disposed by God.

Ver14.—Doth not even nature itself teach you? The Latin Version reads, "Neither doth nature itself teach you," i.e., Nature doth not teach that women should be veiled, but it does teach that if a man grow long hair, it is a disgrace to him; if a woman, it is her glory.

Ver15.—But if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her. To let the hair grow long is contrary to what becomes man, is the mark of a weak and effeminate mind, unless it is done because of ill-health or intense cold. Hence S. Augustine reproves some monks who wore their hair down to their shoulders, to gain the appearance and reputation of holiness ( Deuteronomy 0p. Monach.). Again, it seems fitting for a man to pray with uncovered head, for a woman with covered, as the Apostle has proved here. The woman ought, therefore, to let her hair grow long, but not the man, for her hair was given her for her covering.

Take note, however, that it is not absolutely enjoined, either by natural, Divine, or ecclesiastical law, that a woman should let her hair grow long and man should not. Hence, as was said in the notes to ver6 , religious women cut off their hair. On the other hand, the men of some tribes, like the Gauls, used to let their hair grow long for an ornament. Hence we get the name of Gallia Comata. Homer, too, frequently speaks of the "long-haired Achæans." The Romans, also, in ancient times, grew their hair long, and did not apply the scissors till the time of Scipio Africanus. Pliny says (lib. vii. c59) that the first barbers came into Italy from Sicily, A.U.C454. Lycurgus also enacted that the Lacedæmonians should retain their hair. S. Paul, therefore, is not laying down any rule, but merely points to the teaching of nature, that it is fitting for a woman, when she goes out in public, to go with bonnet and veil, but not for a man. Still, he here adopts the decency taught by nature, and wishes the Corinthians to observe it as if it were a precept, hence he adds—

Ver16.—But if any man seem to be contentious. To be contentious is to contend for renown and victory, not for truth; and here it is to contend that Christian women should not be veiled when they pray in Church, but should be bareheaded, according to the ancient custom of the heathen.

Ver17.—Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, &c. This is the fourth reason why women should be veiled, drawn from nature itself, which has given woman hair for a covering, to teach her that she ought to cover herself. The Apostle says, "In giving you this precept about the veiling of women, I do not at the same time, praise you for coming together, not for the better but for the worse." What this means is explained in the next verse.

Ver18.—For first of all . . . I hear that there be divisions among you. Observe the word "Church," which shows that, in the time of S. Paul, there were places set apart for worship. For the early form of churches, their paintings, use of the Cross, the separation of the sexes, &c., see Baronius in his commentary on this verse.

The Apostle here passes from the subject of the veiling of women to correct the abuses of the Corinthians in the Eucharist.

For there must also be heresies among you. Looking at the fickleness, pride, newness in the faith, and quarrelsomeness of the Corinthians, who were saying, "I am of Paul, I of Apollos," which God permitted to prove them, it was necessary that there should he heresies. So Cajetan, Ambrose, Chrysostom. "Heresies" here denotes the divisions on points of faith and manners, which existed among the Corinthians about the Eucharist, e.g., where they should sit, when the Supper should begin, about the food and drink, about the persons they should sit down with. In the Lord"s Supper and the agap, the rich Corinthians excluded the poor and had their meat by themselves.

That they which are approved may be made manifest among you. In the time of heresy and schism, we see who are built on the foundation of faith and piety, as here amongst the Corinthians was seen the patient constancy of the poor, who were scorned by the rich, and also the modesty and charity of the rich who hated divisions, and invited the poor to their feasts and their agapæ. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius.

Ver20.—When ye come together, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord"s supper. When you come together in this way to the Eucharist and the supper of the Lord, your supper is no longer that of the Lord, as it once was; and your eating is no longer an eating of the Lord"s Supper. You do not institute a supper of the Lord, who admitted to His sober and holy meal all the Apostles, including even Judas, but a supper to Bacchus or Mars; for you come together to get drunk, and to exclude the poor, and so each one fills himself with wine, and the poor with violence. So Anselm, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Vatablus, and Erasmus read for "it is not," "it is not lawful," i.e., "it is not lawful for you to eat the Lord"s Supper, and for this reason." But the first meaning is more thorough, more forcible, and better reproves the Corinthians.

Ver21.—For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper. (1.) S. Augustine ( Ephesians 118) understands this to mean that they took their supper before they came to the Eucharist, and that ver33orders them to wait for one another at the supper before the Eucharist; because at the Eucharist itself or after it there was no need of waiting, since it was not celebrated till all had assembled, when the poor would receive it mingled indiscriminately with the rich.

We must remark that, at the time of S. Paul, in imitation of Christ, who, after the common meal on the Passover lamb, instituted the Eucharist, the Christians instituted before the Eucharist a meal common to all, rich and poor alike, in token of their mutual Christian charity. This custom lasted in some Churches for several centuries. As late as the time of Sozomen, as he relates (Hist.lib. vii. c29), it was the custom in many towns and villages of Egypt, first to take a meal in common, and then, following Christ"s example, celebrate and partake of the Holy Eucharist. The Third Council of Carthage (can29) points to the same custom as prevailing in several other Churches. The Apostle does not here censure this custom wherever or whenever it was allowed, but only the abuse of it by those who got drunk in this supper, and allowed others who were poor to go hungry. Hence he says, "0ne is hungry and another is drunken;" and again he says, that a man will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord who eats unworthily, i.e., in the mortal sin of drunkenness and contempt of the poor. He therefore, in ver33 , bids them wait for one another when they eat the Lord"s Supper. He speaks, therefore, of the assembly which took place before, not after the Eucharist.

2. Others, however, think that "the supper taken before" is the agape after the Eucharist. In the primitive Church, in imitation of Christ, the richer members were in the habit of spreading a feast for rich and poor alike after the Holy Communion, in token of love, whence it was called the "agape;" but as charity grew cold and the number of the faithful increased, the practice became abused; for the rich would spread their own table sumptuously, even getting intoxicated, and would sit apart by themselves, the poor being excluded or not expected, far less invited, as ver33implies, and it is this that the Apostle here censures. Cf. Chrysostom (Hom. xxiii. Moral.), Tertullian (Apol29), and Baronius in loco. It was for this reason that the Council of Laodicea (can28) abolished the agape.

But the former explanation seems the better for the reasons given above; for the agape in S. Paul"s time was held, not after but before the Eucharist; although shortly after these early days, when the Church laid down that, out of reverence, the Eucharist should be received fasting only, the agape was kept after the Eucharist, as will be seen by reference to the passages of Tertullian and Chrysostom, quoted above, and to S. Augustine ( Ephesians 118). By parity of reasoning this passage of S. Paul can be applied to those of the rich who celebrated the agape after the Eucharist; for he censures drunkenness and pride in the agape, whether before or after the Eucharist. Wherefore some Protestants are wrong in twisting this verse into an argument against private Masses, in which the priest alone communicates, merely because no one else wishes to communicate; for others are not excluded, nay, the Church wishes (Council of Trent, sess. xxii. can6,8) those who hear Mass to communicate. For the Apostle is not referring to this, nor is he speaking of the Eucharist at all, but of the common meal called the agape, as I have shown.

Ver22.—What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? &c. Why do you put to shame the poor who have not your wealth, and cannot contribute the delicacies which you can to the common meal? If you wish to feast and enjoy yourselves, do it at home among your equals, not in the church. For if you do it in church you sin in two ways: (1.) because you defile the church by your self-indulgence; (2.) because, by neglecting and despising the poor, you rend the Christian Church, which is common to rich and poor.

Ver23.—That which also I delivered unto you. Not by writing, as I said before, but by word of mouth. This is one authority for the traditions which, orthodox divines teach, should be added to the written word of God.

Vers23 , 24.—That the Lord Jesus the same night, &c. Five actions of Christ are here described: (1.) He took bread; (2.) He gave thanks to the Father; (3.) He blessed the bread, as S. Matthew also says ( Matthew 26:26); (4.) He brake it; (5.) He gave it to His disciples, and in giving it, He said, "Take, eat; this is My body." These are the words of one who gives as well as of one who consecrates.

Hence there is no foundation for the argument of Calvin, who says that all these words "took," "blessed," "brake," "gave," refer to bread only, and that therefore it was bread that the Apostles took and ate, not the body of Christ. My answer is that these words refer to the bread, not as it remained bread, but as it was changed into the body of Christ while being given, by the force of the words of consecration used by Christ. In the same way Christ might have said at Cana of Galilee, "Take, drink; this is wine," if He had wished by these words to change the water into wine. So we are in the habit of saying, Herod imprisoned, slew, buried, or permitted to be buried, S. John, when what he buried was not what he imprisoned: he imprisoned a man; he buried a corpse. Like this, and consequently just as common, is this way of speaking about the Eucharist, which is used by the Evangelists and S. Paul.

Notice too from Christ"s words, "Take, for this is," &c. that He seems to have taken one loaf, and in the act of consecration to have broken it into twelve parts, and to have given one part to each Apostle, and that each one seems to have received it into his hand. Hence the custom existed for a long time in the Church of giving the Eucharist into the hands of the faithful, as appears from Tertullian (de Spectac.), from Cyril of Jerusalem (Myst. Catech5), from S. Augustine (Serm44). Afterwards, however, it was put into the mouth to prevent accidents, and out of reverence.

This is My body. Heretics say that this is a figure of speech, a metonymy, or something of the sort, and that the meaning is, "This is a figure of My body," "This represents My body."

But that this is no mere figure of speech is evident (1.) from the emphasis on the word "This," and from the words, "My body and My blood," as well as from the whole sentence, which is so clearly expressed that it could not have been put more plainly. Add to this that the words were used on the last day of Christ"s life, at the time that He left His testament, instituted a new and everlasting covenant with His unlettered and beloved disciples, and also instituted this most sublime sacrament, at once a dogma and a Christian mystery, all which things men generally express as they ought to do in the clearest terms possible. Who can believe that the great wisdom and goodness of Christ would have given in His last words an inevitable occasion for false doctrine and never-ending idolatry?—which He surely did if these so clear words, "This is My body," were meant to be understood merely as a figure of speech. If this is indeed true, then the whole Church, for the last1500 years, has been living in the most grievous error and idolatry, and that too through Christ"s own words, which Luther thought so clear that he wrote to the men of Argentum: "If Carlstad could have persuaded me that in the sacrament there is nothing but bread and wine, he would have conferred a great kindness upon me; for so I should have been most utterly opposed to the Papacy. But I am held fast: there is no way of escape open; for the text of the Gospel is too apparent and too convincing, its force cannot well be evaded, much less can it be destroyed by words or glosses forged in some brain-sick head." And Melancthon (ad. Fred. Myconium) says: "If you understand "My body" to mean "a figure of My body," what difficulty is there that you will not be able to explain away? It will then be easy to transform the whole form of religion." With Servetus, you will be able to say that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but three names of the one God, not Three Persons; that Christ took flesh, but only in appearance; that He died and suffered, but only as a phantasm, as the Manichæans teach. In short, in this way who will not be able to say that the Gospel is the Gospel, Christ is Christ, God is God figuratively, and so come, as many do, to believe nothing at all? Observe how the Sacramentaries open here a door to atheism. Cardinal Hosius most truly prophesied that heretics would in course of time become atheists, and that the end of all heresy is atheism. When they fall away from Catholic truth into heresy, and find in that nothing fixed, or firm, or durable, what remains for them but to abjure their heretical opinions and believe nothing, and become that of which the Psalmist sings ( Psalm 14:1), "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God?" Would that we did not daily see the truth of this.

Again, not only Paul, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the institution in the same way and in the same words: "This is My body; this is My blood." Not one, then, can say it is a figure of speech, or maintain that one explains the other where he is obscure. Erasmus was convinced by this argument, and replied to the attempts of Conrad Pellican to convert him to Zwinglianism: "I have always said that I could never bring my mind to believe that the true body of Christ was not in the Eucharist, especially when the writings of the Evangelists and S. Paul expressly speak of the body as given and of the blood as shed. . . . If you have persuaded yourself that in Holy Communion you receive nothing but bread and wine, I would rather under go all kinds of suffering, and be torn limb from limb, than profess what you do; nor will I suffer you to make me a supporter or associate of your doctrine; and so may it be my portion never to be separated from Christ. Amen."

2. If in the Eucharist bread remains bread, then the figure of bread has succeeded to the figure of the lamb. Who is there that does not see that it is wrong to say that that can be? The lamb slain under the Old Law was a plainer representation of Christ suffering than the bread in the New Law. Again, the lamb would have been a poor type of the Eucharist if it is, as Calvin says, bread and nothing else. Any one would rather have the lamb, both for itself and as a figure of Christ, than the bread.

3. This is still more evident in the consecration of the cup. "This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you"—words which are clearest of all in S. Luke 22:20—"This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you." The relative in this verse undoubtedly refers to "cup." S. Luke, therefore, says that the cup, or the chalice of the blood of Christ, was poured out for us; therefore, in this chalice there was truly the blood of Christ, so that, when this chalice was drunk from, there was poured out, not wine, which was before consecration, and, as heretics say, remains after consecration also, but the blood of Christ, which was contained in it after consecration; for this is the meaning of "the cup of My blood which is poured out for you." Otherwise it was a cup of wine, not of blood, that was poured out for us, and Christ would have redeemed us with a cup of wine, which is most absurd. This will still more plainly appear from the next verse. Nor can it be said, as Beza does, that the text is corrupt, for all copies and commentators read it as we do, and always have so read it.

4. All the Evangelists and S. Paul explain what "this body" means by adding, "which is given for you," or, as S. Paul says, "which is broken for you." But it was not the figure of the body, but the true body of Christ that was given and "broken for us;" therefore it was the true body of Christ that Christ gave to His Apostles. Moreover, S. Paul says: "Whosoever shall eat this bread . . . unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Therefore there is here really "the body and blood of the Lord," and he who handles and takes it unworthily does it an injury.

In short, the Greek and Latin Fathers of all ages explain these words of consecration literally. This was how the Church understood them for1050 years, till the time of Berengarius. He was the first who publicly taught the contrary, being a man untaught indeed, but ambitious of obtaining the name of a new teacher. For J. Scotus and Bertram, who, at an earlier date, held the same views as Berengarius, were but little known, and were at once refuted and silenced by Paschasius Radbert, and others. This opinion of Berengarius was at once opposed as a dogma that had seen light for the first time by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, Guidmund, Alger, and the whole Catholic Church. The error of Berengarius was condemned at a council held at Versailles, under Leo IX., and at another held at Tours, under Victor II., at which Berengarius was present, and being convicted, he at once abjured his heresy, but having relapsed, he was once more convicted in a Roman council of113bishops, under Nicholas II., and his books were burnt. Having again lapsed, he condemned his error in a third Roman council, under Gregory VII., and uttered the following confession of faith given by Thomas Wald. (de Sacram. vol. ii. c43): "I, Berengarius, believe with my heart and profess with my mouth that the bread and wine are charged into the true and real and lifegiving flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that, after consecration, there is His true body which he took of the Virgin, and that there is the very blood which flowed from His side, not merely by way of sign, but in its natural properties, and in reality of substance." Would that those who follow Berengarius now in his error would follow him also in his repentance. The heresy of Berengarius has been renewed in the present century by Andrew Carlstadt, who was at once opposed by Luther. Carlstadt was followed by Zwingli, he by Calvin; and yet there is no single article of faith which has such firm support of all the Fathers and of the whole Church as this of the reality of the body of Christ in the Eucharist.

The same truth has been defined in eight General Councils—the First and Second Nicene, the Roman under Nicholas II., the Lateran, those of Vienne, of Constance, Florence, and Trent, as well as by many provincial synods. If any one doubts this, let him read John Garetius, who gives in order the testimonies of the Fathers for sixteen centuries after Christ, and of the Councils of each century, who alike unanimously and clearly confess this truth. He also brings forward the profession of the same faith given by the Churches of Syria, Ethiopia, Armenia, and India. Let him read also Bellarmine (de Eucharistiâ), who gives and comments on the words of each. Whoever reads them will see that this has been the faith of the Church in all ages, so that Erasmus might well say to Louis Beer: "You will never persuade me that Christ, who is Truth and Love, would so long suffer His beloved bride to remain in so abominable an error as to worship a piece of bread instead of Himself."

And here appears the art and ingenuity of Zwingli, Calvin, and their friends. They bring forward a new view of the Eucharist, and teach that in it there is not really the body of Christ, but merely a figure of the body. How do they prove it? From the Scriptures. Well, then, let the words be studied, let all the Evangelists be read, let Paul too be read, and let it be said whether they support them or us and the received teaching of the Church. What else do all clearly proclaim but a body, and that a body given for us? What else but blood shed for us? Where here is room for shadow, or figure, or type? But they say these words must be explained figuratively. Admit, then, that the words of Scripture, do not favour you, for you say that the mind of Scripture is to be ascertained elsewhere than from the words of Scripture. How, then, do you prove that these words ought to be explained figuratively? If they are ambiguous, whence is the exposition to be sought? Who is to end the strife save the Church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth handed down to her from the Fathers? What save the primitive authority of the Fathers, the tradition of our forefathers, and the consent of the first ages of the Church? We quote and allege the Fathers of every century, all our forefathers, the national and General Councils of each century: all take the words of Christ as they stand, and condemn the figurative interpretation. What remains, then, but to follow the plain words of Scripture, and the clear exposition of the Fathers and of the whole Church in all ages? And yet you obstinately adhere to your figurative explanation. What Scripture supports you—whose authority—what reason? You can only say that your heresy has so determined, and that you follow the trumpet of Luther. So I think, so I choose, so I will, so I determine: let my will do instead of reason. This is the only ground you have for all your beliefs.

Melancthon wrote far more truly and more soundly about this (de Ver. Corp. et Sang. Dom.): "If, relying on human reason, you deny that Christ is in the Eucharist, what will your conscience say in time of trial? What reason will it bring forward for departing from the doctrine received in the Church? Then will the words, "This is My body," be thunderbolts. What will your panic-stricken mind oppose to them? By what words of Scripture, by what promises of God will she fortify herself, and persuade herself that these words must necessarily be taken metaphorically, when the Word of God ought to be listened to before the judgment of reason?" At all events in the hour of death, and in that terrible day when we stand before the tribunal of Christ, to be examined of our life and faith, if Christ ask me, "Why didst thou believe that My body was in the Eucharist?" I can confidently answer, "I believed it, 0 Lord, because Thou saidst it, because Thou didst teach it me. Thou didst not explain Thy words as a figure, nor did I dare to explain them so. The Church took them in their simple meaning, and I took them as the Church did. I was persuaded that this faith and this reverence were due from me to Thy words and to Thy Church."

If Christ ask the Calvinist, "Why didst thou wrest My words from their proper meaning into a figure of speech?" what answer will he make? "I thought that I must do so, for my reason could not understand how they could or ought to be true."—"But," He will reply, "which ought you to have listened to—your reason, which has human infirmity, or My word, which is all-powerful, than which nothing can be truer? Reason dictated to the Gentiles that to believe in Me as God, when born, suffering, and crucified, was folly. Yet you thought and believed that you should believe all this about Me, and you were persuaded of it from the words of Scripture only, which say this simply. Why, then, in this one article of the Eucharist did you presume to interpret what I expressly said, by the rule of your reason, according to the measure of your brain? Why did you not bow to the authoritative exposition of the Church of all ages? Why desire to be wiser than it?" What answer will he give—how excuse himself—whither turn? Let each one think earnestly of this ere it be too late, let him submit himself to God"s word and the Church with humble and loyal obedience, lest he be confounded in that day of the Lord, and receive his lot with the unbelievers in the lake of fire that burneth with fire and brimstone, lest he hear the words of thunder, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." Nor let him marvel at such a wonderful mystery in the Eucharist, when Christ, throughout His whole life, was wonderful for His mysteries ( Isaiah 9:6); and when Isaiah also says of Him ( Isaiah 45:15): "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, 0 God of Israel, the Saviour." If an angel should conceal himself under the form of the Host, he would be really there though hidden; you would see, touch, and taste bread only, not an angel; yet you would believe that an angel was hidden beneath it if an angel or a prophet had said so. Why, then, in like manner, do you not believe that Christ is concealed under the Host, when Christ Himself, who cannot lie, says so? For God, who is Almighty, can supernaturally give this mode of existence—spiritual, invisible, indivisible—to the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Let no one then faithlessly say: "How can Christ be in so small a Host?" Let him think that Christ is there, as an angel might be; let him not inquire as to the mode, but embrace instead the wonderful love of Christ, whose delights are with the sons of men, who went about to pass from the world to the Father; as S. John says ( John 13:1), "having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end;" and of whom says the verse of S. Thomas—

"By birth their Fellow-man was He,

Their meat when sitting at the board;

He died their Ransomer to be;

He ever reigns, their great Reward."—

that by His love He might compel our love in return, that as often as we see and take our part in these mysteries we might think of Him as addressing us in the words: "So Christ gives Himself here wholly to thee; give, nay give again thyself wholly to Him."

You will perhaps object that the Eucharist is called "bread and fruit of" the vine," i.e., wine, in S. John 6:57, S. Matthew 26:29. I answer that in the account of the institution of the Eucharist it is called bread by no one, if it is elsewhere, and also that "bread" there denotes any kind of food. (See note on x17). So wine might signify any kind of drink, as being the common drink among the Jews, as it is now in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.

But the better answer is that Christ applied the name "fruit of the vine," not to what was in the Eucharistic chalice, but to that in the cup of the Passover Supper. For, as He said of the lamb (S. Luke 22:16), "I will not eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God," so of the cup of the lamb, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come." For S. Luke plainly makes a distinction, not observed by S. Matthew and S. Mark, between the lamb and the cup of the Passover supper, and relates that Christ spoke of both before the Eucharist ( Luke 22:17). Christ simply meant to say that He would not afterwards live with them, or take part in the common supper, as He had hitherto done, because He was going to His death, as Jerome, Theophylact and others say in their comments on the passage.

You may perhaps object, secondly, that the words, "This is My body" are a sacramental mode of speech, and are, therefore, typical and figurative.

But I deny that this follows; for this is a sacramental mode of speech, because, by these words, a true sacrament is worked, viz., because, under the species of bread and wine as the visible signs, there is present the very body of Christ. The words are not sacramental in the sense of being typical or figurative, for sacraments properly speaking signify what they contain and effect. For a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality which it causes and effects, as, e.g., when we say, "I baptize thee," i.e., "wash thee," the meaning is not, "I give thee a sign or figure of washing," but strictly, "By this sacrament I wash thy body, and by this I wash thy soul from the stains of thy sins." So when we say, "I absolve thee," "I confirm thee," "I anoint thee," there is signified, not a figurative but a real and proper absolution, confirmation, and anointing of the body and soul.

If Christ, therefore, when He said "body," had meant "figure of My body," He ought to have explained Himself, and said, "I am speaking, not only sacramentally, but figuratively," otherwise He would have given to the Apostles and to the whole Church an evident occasion for the most grievous error. The conclusion then has no basis that Christ is in the Eucharist as in a sacrament, that is, figuratively or typically, as the commentary ascribed to S. Ambrose says, in which it is followed by some of the Fathers, and that therefore He is not really there, but only figuratively; the contrary should be inferred. Christ is not, therefore, there figuratively, but truly and properly; for a sacrament signifies what is really present, not what is falsely absent. As, then, the conclusion is valid that where there is smoke there is fire, because smoke is the sign of the presence of fire; and again this body breathes, therefore life is present in it, because breathing is a sign of life, so also it rightly follows that the body of Christ is in the Eucharist as in a Sacrament; therefore, He is really there, because the Sacrament and the sacramental species signify that they as the true sacraments of Christ"s body, truly contain it.

You will object perhaps, thirdly, that Christ said (S. John 6:63): "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing;" therefore the flesh of Christ is not present, and is not eaten in the Eucharist.

3. I answer that it cannot be said without impiety that the flesh of Christ, suffering and crucified for us, profits us nothing. Indeed, the very opposite of this is taught by Christ Himself throughout S. John 6:35-65. He says in so many words that His flesh greatly profits us. His meaning therefore is, as S. Cyril points out, (1.) that the flesh of Christ has not its quickening power in the Eucharist from itself, but from the Spirit, that is from the Godhead of the Word, to which it is hypostatically united. (2.) That this manducation, as S. Chrysostom says, of Christ"s flesh in the Eucharist is not carnal: that we do not press it with our teeth, as we might bull"s flesh, but that we eat it after a spiritual manner, one suited to the nature of spirit, viz., mysteriously sacramentally, invisibly. For you here eat the flesh of Christ in exactly the same way as you would feed on and appropriate the substance of an angel, if he lay concealed in the sacrament. The opposite of this was what was understood by the unspiritual people of Capernaum, and it is against them only that Christ says these words. Hence He proceeds to say: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." In other words, "They are spiritual, and must be understood spiritually: you will not eat My flesh in the carnal sense of being bloody, cut into pieces and chewed, but only in a spiritual way, as though it were a spirit couched invisibly and indivisibly beneath the Blessed Sacrament." In the same way, "My words are life," that is full of life, giving life to him that heareth, believeth, and eateth My flesh.

4. You will perhaps again urge that it seems impossible that Christ, being so great, should be in so small a Host and at so many different altars, and that it seems incredible that Christ should be there, subject to the chance of being eaten by mice or vomited, &c.

I reply to the first, "With God all things are possible." Hence we say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty." God can do more than a miserable man, nay, more than all the hosts of angels and men can conceive, else He would not be God. Moreover, faith transcends human capacity: these mysteries are matters for faith, not for reason. "Faith," says S. Augustine (in Joan. Tract27,40), "is believing what you see not." And S. Gregory (in Evang. Hom. xxvi.) says: "Faith has no merit where human reason supplies proof." S. Thomas, therefore, well sings of this sacrament—

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Bibliography Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/clc/1-corinthians-11.html. 1890.

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