Mary and the Great American Solar Eclipse

Darkness is coming over America.  For the first time in nearly 100 years a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast across the United States.  Monday August 21st will be “The Great American Eclipse.”  It will be an American-centric event.  Millions of people are travelling to see the totality of the eclipse, in what one astronomer is saying will be “the most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history.”

It should be a truly spectacular spectacle.  In terms of pure celestial mechanics, the moon will be aligned between the earth and the sun, casting its shadow perfectly over the sun, for those along the path of totality.  It is pure science, not supernatural.

Yet, the Great American Solar Eclipse is causing many to worry and speculate that it is a harbinger of the apocalypse.  They fear God is casting judgment upon America, and this judgment will be reflected in nature by a blotting out of the sun.  Many Christian blogs and books have been written on the eclipse, and blood moons, and other astronomical curiosities.  These are not hard to find.

But, what to make of it?

Certainly, the United States has been going through a period of relative social and political unease.  The social norms of the country are in flux and moving away from divine truths as promulgated by the Church.  One need only look at judicial rulings on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex ‘marriage,’ and transgenderism to see the shift away from traditional Christian values.  Sin ultimately does provoke judgment.  But, does this mean we are now living in the apocalypse?  Well, no.  Does this mean we are living in deadly serious times?  Yes, it does.

Jesus himself did warn us to observe signs in nature before his Second Coming saying, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.” (Lk. 21:25)  This echoes the prophecy of Joel: “The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” (Joel 3:15)  These will be cataclysmic happenings and worldwide events.  Does the Great American Solar Eclipse rise to this level?  No, it does not.

That is not to say that the spiritual things are not reflected in the temporal world.  Clearly they can be.  God does give us signs in creation.  At the exact time of Jesus’ Crucifixion, the sun did not give off its light.  As scripture says, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” (Mk. 15:33)  So, there was darkness at the Crucifixion and there will be darkness at the Second Coming of Christ.  And yes, there will be a brief darkness over the United States during the total solar eclipse on August 21st.  Is this a sign from God specifically for America?  Perhaps.  Perhaps in the spiritual sense, that God does occasionally give us signs through nature.  Perhaps God is trying to get our attention, and is calling us to repentance.  Certainly sin has increased, and by way of analogy, the light of God is dimming in our society.  Holiness is being eclipsed in America.

The last time a full coast-to-coast eclipse happened across the U.S. was June 8, 1918.  This was not long after the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal in 1917, and in the midst of the tragedy of World War I.  Mary also warned that when you see “a night illumined by an unknown light” that God was about to punish the world for its sins.  Most believe this was fulfilled on January 25, 1938 with a great aurora over much of Europe just before the start of World War II.  This year is the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, which some attach special significance to its centenary.  It was at the last apparition on October 13, 1917 that tens of thousands of people witnessed another solar event, in that case, the dramatic “Miracle of the Sun.”

It was Pope Pius XII who also witnessed the Miracle of the Sun phenomenon.  In fact, he supposedly witnessed it four times, in the year 1950 when he was going to proclaim the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  He says he observed it on October 30th while walking in the Vatican gardens.  He then witnessed it again on “the 31st of October and Nov. 1, the day of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption, and then again Nov. 8, and after that, no more.”  On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary dogma in Munificentissimus Deus: “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”  The Miracle of the Sun phenomenon seemed to confirm the dogma.  So, on August 15th of the liturgical calendar we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  The Great American Solar Eclipse falls within the octave of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.  This feast culminates eight days later on August 22nd with the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

On October 11, 1954, Pope Pius XII released the encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam declaring the Mary the Queen of Heaven and instituting the liturgical Feast of the Queenship of Mary.  It quotes among others St. John Damascene that “When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature.”  Pope Paul VI later moved the feast day to the octave of the Assumption in order to emphasize the close bond between the glorification of her body and soul and her Queenship in Heaven next to her son, Jesus Christ.  Lumen Gentium makes this explicit saying, “Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son.” (LG, 59)  Thus, from August 15th to August 22nd we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and her being crowned Queen of Heaven.  Some see significance in the fact that the eclipse falls within the octave of the Feast of the Assumption and on the eve of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Besides these two feasts of Mary, August 21st also falls on the Feast day of Our Lady of Knock.  Our Lady of Knock was an apparition of the Virgin Mary that happened on August 21, 1879 in the County Mayo village of Knock, Ireland.  There are some interesting aspects to this apparition in comparison to other Church approved apparitions.  For one, this apparition was completely silent.  Mary spoke no words to the fifteen witnesses.  The apparition lasted for about three hours.  Along with the Virgin Mary, who was in deep prayer with her eyes raised towards heaven, were St. Joseph, and an altar with Jesus – as the Lamb of God – on it.  St. John the Evangelist was also in the vision.  This is somewhat unusual and unique in Marian apparitions.

Our Lady of Knock did not speak any words.  There was only silent symbolism.  Jesus is pictured as the Lamb of God on an altar – clearly depicting the paschal mystery.  In the four gospels, the word lamb is mentioned just four times total.  In contrast, in St. John’s book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb” 28 times.  In the apparition at Knock, St. John was seen holding a book, which some have surmised was the Book of Revelation.  In it, St. John wrote about The Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, and when the Lamb “opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” (Rev. 8:1)  St. John also wrote about another great sign, Mary as the Queen of Heaven: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rev. 12:1)

Is there a deeper spiritual meaning to the eclipse?  That remains uncertain.  As with all things in life, we must live in the present moment and seek to amend our lives the best that we can.  Perhaps, if the metaphor holds true, that sin is darkening our souls, then God is telling us to retreat to Mary the Mother of God in pursuit of sanctity.  As a fairly remarkable astronomical event, we should appreciate the eclipse on Monday, and enjoy it safely (with the proper NASA-approved eclipse glasses, of course!)  But, we should also be mindful to the dimming of our moral lives and the coarsening of our culture.  In this time of devotions to Mary, perhaps we can rededicate ourselves to the message of Fatima, which is always the message of Mary and Jesus: prayer, sacrifice, conversion, and the sacraments.

image: Eclipse in Edinburgh by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Brian Kranick

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Brian Kranick is a freelance writer focusing on all things Catholic. In addition to other studies, he has a master's degree in Systematic Theology from Christendom College.  He has spent years working as an analyst in the Intelligence Community, and currently resides with his wife and three children in the Pacific Northwest.  He is the author of the blog: sacramentallife.com.

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  • C-Marie

    Turn to Jesus Christ with your whole being, for God our Father loves you as He does Jesus. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 16. God bless you, C-Marie

  • Viki63

    Thank you for this well reasoned and enlightening essay. Certainly “social and political unease” is putting it mildly.
    I doubt there are any coincidences in God’s creation, and we are well advised to see in the eclipse a sign that we need to draw closer to Our Lord, make reparation as we are able, and implore his mercy on our nation.

  • Howard

    Yes, but only in the same sense that you might see those in the flight of birds, as the Romans did, or in tea leaves. In other words, LOOKING for such signs is almost certainly superstitious, and borders on divination. At the same time, even “meaningless” things, like the shape of a cloud, may, IF THEY REMIND YOU OF SOMETHING YOU ALREADY KNOW, be minor providential signs. For example, if you have been missing Mass, and you see a cloud shaped like an altar with a crucifix on it, it might remind you that you really need to start going to Mass again, which is a valid observation with or without the cloud.

    It’s the same with the eclipse, as well as with hurricanes (remember various Protestant pastors speculating on what specific sins might have brought on Katrina?). If these are signs at all, they are not unambiguous signs; they may be used to suggest a hypothesis, but not to prove a point.

  • MR

    Beautiful and SO touching. Thank you.

  • Adrian Johnson

    “The path of totality of the Bur-Sagle Eclipse, one of the most famous solar eclipses in ancient history, occurred just north of Nineveh on 14th June, 763 BC during the reign of King Ashur-Dan III of Assyria, and was recorded for posterity in the Assyrian Eponym Canon – a series of cuneiform tablets discovered in the 19th century. We know that the Prophet Jonah was a contemporary of King Ashur-Dan III because of a brief mention of him in the Second Book of Kings, which places his prophetic ministry during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel.” – Emmett O’Regan

    Jonah apparently stayed in Nineveh. He was buried in Nineveh, modern Mosul. Jonah rested peacefully until ISIS in 2014. ISIS destroyed Jonah’s tomb with sledgehammers and explosives.

    Unlike the European nations, the USA never had an established religion, Catholic or Protestant. It can therefore be analogous to Nineveh. Many believe that this eclipse and the one 7 years after it, 4 April 2024, are both eclipses intersecting over the USA at Marion, Illinois, where the local Catholic Church has St Joseph as patron, –are a warning of chastisement for Americas sins against nature (contraception, abortion, cloning, euthanasia, normalisation of LGBT politics). Christians need to pray for conversion, Catholics in particular pray the Rosary as per the Fatima message so that the souls of those who do not know God may be saved by our intercession.

    America has committed moral suicide, and her days as a great power are numbered. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We could repent, we could pray for national conversion and rejection our culture of depravity.

  • Patric

    Seems like looking at Christianity through an American-centric lens. It’s not the whole world seeing the eclipse. Not even all of America will experience total darkness. Seems a bit of a stretch to say a one-minute eclipse signifies the moral darkness of America.

  • brbg

    Perhaps those areas which can view the eclipse are in for chastisement. Mary did tell us that because of the sins of abortion, homosexuality and materialism, and the exporting of these sins around the world, natural and man-made disasters will increase in number and severity and force her to her knees.

  • brbg

    There have been solar eclipses before chastisements on many occasions. When Jonah warned the Ninevites of coming chastisement his warning was accompanied by a solar eclipse. God said He put the sun and moon in the sky to use as “signs”. So we will see.

  • Howard

    2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

    Don’t go that route. It is dangerous, as highlighted in the Catechism; it is intellectually dishonest, since this is a natural phenomenon that can be predicted to the second centuries in advance; God Himself has given us no reason to associate the eclipse with anything; and finally, God gave us minds to use, and any honest person who is even dimly aware of what is happening in the West in general and the USA in particular must already know we are heading for trouble.

  • Howard

    Perhaps those areas that play Big 10 football are in for a chastisement. “Perhaps” is a big word that lets you introduce all kinds of unlikely ideas.

  • John Landau

    Where did Mary say this? Was this event/apparition approved by the Church?

  • John Landau

    I agree. It’s an eclipse. We have to be careful turning every little thing into a “coming of a chastisem” event. This is fear-based and is contrary to trusting in Jesus. An article about an eclipse does not have to insert chastisement into the equation. Eclipses have been around forever. Focus on joy, faith, and fidelity to Jesus, not on fear-based stuff that will just make you crazy and take your emphasis off of God and His Mercy. Fear will just bring more darkness into your life. Walk in faith, people.

  • Tina In Ashburn

    True astrology is a gift of God – the Wise Men followed the star using the old understanding of true astrology. No, I don’t mean modern horoscopes, don’t pretend that this is what I mean. Man has lost all touch with understanding true astrology and the sign in the heavens.
    The Evil One desires that we learn nothing from true interpretation of the signs. I mean really, when nature revolts because of Man’s sin, the devil works hard to ensure we ignore these signs, otherwise Man might sit up and listen and change his ways! Gosh cuz that would mean there is a God, a God who is very involved with our actions, a God who is just, a God who is merciful…and we are being driven to atheism and materialism, and explaining everything away with a perverted form of Godless “science”.
    We aren’t supposed to work at predicting the future either – God sends prophecies and signs in all kinds of ways as a comfort to us, which can really only be verified after the fact.
    At this peak of Man’s ignorance and degradation unmatched in human history, we can’t pretend to know how to interpret anything.
    The point is: It is ALL very significant…just not sure how.

  • Howard

    Don’t tell that to me — write the Pope and demand that he “correct” the Catechism.

  • Howard

    Also, what would really constitute “nature revolting” would be if there were NOT an eclipse tomorrow. This event is as predictable as sunset, and neither less nor more of a “sign”. So if you want to believe that it is a sign from God of an imminent chastisement that the moon will pass in front of the sun and totally obscure it for (not in this case, but apparently in general) no longer than 7 1/2 minutes, then how much more of a sign it must be that in just a few hours, the whole United States will experience a period of darkness of several hours as the earth itself passes between us and the sun! And that’s to say nothing of the fact that in some places, clouds will pass between cities and the sun — and that is much harder to predict accurately!

    That way lies insanity. Pagans may have believed in evil gods who did not want to give clear instructions to their worshipers, or stupid gods who didn’t know how to make themselves understood, or weak gods who had the desire and the understanding but lacked the ability; but the Catholic Church proclaims a God Who desires to tell mankind what we need to know, Who knows how to do it, and Who is able to do so. He has given us Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium; we have no need to wonder “what it means” when a cloud or the moon passes in front of the sun, because we have been told all we need to know. But as I wrote above, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” We are indeed an evil and adulterous generation, but we should expect no sign other than the sign of Jonas, which was NOT an eclipse. And. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.”

  • Jimmy Chonga

    The universe, like a gigantic watch, intricate in all its elements, functioning cohesively in all its parts, clearly the work of a magnificent power and intellect.

  • Howard

    Kind of off the topic of the eclipse, but yeah.

  • lawrence_333@msn.com

    FEAR NOT!!! TRUMP T=TRUMP R=RUNS U=UNDER M=MARY’S P=PROTECTION
    Our Lady’s Peace Plan, Over Atheistic Communism…Family Rosary
    The Triumph of Mary Begins With President Trump the Great!

  • Howard

    From “The Simpsons“:

    Leonard Nimoy: A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on.
    Man: [sitting next to Leonard Nimoy and starting to get a little freaked out by him] Does anyone want to switch seats?

  • C.

    OBAMA O=Our B=Blessed A=ARK (of the covenant) M=MARY A=AMEN

    CLINTON C=CLEMENT L=LADY I=INTERCEDE N=NOW T=THROUGH O=OUR N=NOVENA

  • Fr. Gerhard Wenzel

    I miss the most impressive constellation of stars in this article. On September 23 the Woman clothed in the sun with 12 stars over her head will appear on the night sky, the moon under her feet.
    http://earthsky.org/human-world/biblical-signs-in-the-sky-september-23-2017
    How could Brian Kranick miss that part?
    God bless
    Fr. Gerhard, Germany

  • Howard

    Fair enough. You could probably work something out for Curly Howard if you put some work into it. This is a lot like the silly exchanges between Protestants and Catholics a few centuries ago in which they tried shoehorning names into the Number of the Beast. The difference is that very few, if any, Catholics really believed that Luther was really that important, whereas quite a few Protestants seriously believe that the Pope (any Pope) is the literal Antichrist.

  • C.

    Yup. Couldn’t think of any better way to respond to lawrence_333’s bizarre spam posting. Similar also to those “bible codes” wherein folks search for patterns that aren’t there in large chunks of text.

    Still, I couldn’t help but notice that your name spells out a mighty prophecy related to America’s future: Holiness Occupies Washington After Republican Defeat

  • Howard

    Any holiness in Washington is either passing through, being martyred, or coming long after both of us are dead. Trying to cure America’s spiritual problems with politics is like trying to cure gangrene with soap. In some cases, maybe, soap may prevent the onset of gangrene, but once the infection has begun, soap is no longer key to the cure.

  • C.

    Right, right. Just joking of course.

  • Jackie Stutmann

    This whole Year smacks with the significance of Our Blessed Mother! Our Lady is sometimes symbolized as the Moon reflecting the Light of the Sun (the sun symbolizing the Son of God). I believe Our Lord will permit a Marian event to show off His Blessed Mother. There IS great significance to the celestial events of this year, and God will reveal it to us if we ask him. Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be open to you!

  • Adrian Johnson

    Aren’t you the cheery ray of sunshine.

  • Howard

    For what you know, yes. Or maybe you worship at the Altar of the Democrats, or the Altar of the Republicans, and you believe that an earthly paradise will blossom in the USA if only the hated “bad guys” lose enough elections and are swept aside by the triumphant “good guys”. No sensible person believes that, but I have no reason to believe you are a sensible person; many people are not. At any rate, your only reason for complaining is if you actually disagree with my rejection of secular messianism.

  • Eddie

    No Catholic can be a Democrat based on their platform, most especially abortion. So C, if you are a Christian and you supported the two greatest abortionists in modern times, Hilzebob and Barack Hussein I suggest you see how compatible that ideology is with Christ. You will know them by their fruits. God bless Lawrence, I like the way you think.

  • Eddie

    c- democrats keep losing because the American people have spoken. Democratic politicians are even switching and becoming Republicans. The moral silent majority. God bless POTUS.

  • Howard

    You could have ended your comment after only four words! 😉

    EDIT: But as for the rest of your comment, an unfounded assertion that an astronomical phenomenon as predictable as sunset has special, profound significance, unlike the 228 solar eclipses that took place between 1901 and 2000, is about as reasonable as demanding that God reveal to you the mystical significance of the coffee stains at the bottom of your cup. This is false piety and superstition, and it is condemned by the Catholic Church. READ THE CATECHISM. God will reveal the meaning of the Catechism to us if we ask Him. Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be open to you!

  • Jackie Stutmann

    Sir, in case you don’t realize it, there is a phenomenon happening in the same year as this rare solar eclipse, and that is the Revelation 12 sign. “The Woman Clothed with the Sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” That sign will be in the Heavens, (the Constellations) on September 23, 2017. Jesus said there will be “signs” in the sun, the moon and the stars. (Luke 21:25). The last total solar eclipse to be visible in the United States, was early in the 20th century. The rarity of two celestial signs occurring in the same year, with this year being the 100th year Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions is remarkable. It is not superstitious. Jesus said too, that people can read the signs of the earth and skies, but not the signs of the times. (Matthew 16:3). The two go hand in hand. Read the signs of the sky WITH the Signs of the Times sir.

  • Jackie Stutmann

    Awesome poem Rita! You are very talented!

  • Howard

    Well, ma’am, you’re not even reading signs in the sky, you’re reading pseudoscience on the Internet.

    It would help if you spent some time looking up at night. If you did, you would realize that there really isn’t anything special about constellation boundaries. The lines you see on maps are not there in the sky, and they have not always been drawn the same even in Christian Europe, let by other cultures around the world. If you are in a place with clear skies and no light pollution, you might see hundreds of stars in a constellation like Leo, not the handful required for this Internet meme. If you have a telescope, you can see anywhere from tens of thousands of stars to trillions of stars, depending on whether or not you are able to resolve galaxies.

    But with the sun in Virgo, the next constellation over, you will see precisely zero — so much for any visible sign of a woman clothed with the sun and crowned by 12 stars. The only thing you will see will be the sun. So if it comes to what we know is there, there will be trillions of stars in the neighborhood of the sun and moon, but if it comes to how many we will see, the answer is none, because the sun washes them out. This cannot possibly be what St. John was writing about.

    Of course, the sun, moon, and 12 stars do occur somewhere else in Scripture: in Joseph’s dream, in which they stand for Israel, his wife (Leah, probably, since Rachel died in childbirth), and his 12 sons. Sure enough, the Blessed Virgin is Jewish, but I guess that isn’t cool enough for the Internet. (Joseph’s brothers thought it was so cool they sold him into slavery for it.)

    Aside from what I have just said, you can go here to see additional arguments why this is just not that special of an event.

    “But what’s the harm?” Please read at least Book V of the Confessions of St. Augustine. The fact that the most esteemed defender of the Manichees was insisting on astronomy that St. Augustine knew to be wrong was a key part of why he rejected their religion.

    For with their understanding and the capacity which You have bestowed upon them they search out these things; and much have they found out, and foretold many years before—the eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and moon, on what day, at what hour, and from how many particular points they were likely to come. Nor did their calculation fail them; and it came to pass even as they foretold. And they wrote down the rules found out, which are read at this day; and from these others foretell in what year and in what month of the year, and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day, and at what quarter of its light, either moon or sun is to be eclipsed, and thus it shall be even as it is foretold. And men who are ignorant of these things marvel and are amazed, and they that know them exult and are exalted; and by an impious pride, departing from You, and forsaking Your light, they foretell a failure of the sun’s light which is likely to occur so long before, but see not their own, which is now present. … Many truths, however, concerning the creature did I retain from these men, and the cause appeared to me from calculations, the succession of seasons, and the visible manifestations of the stars; and I compared them with the sayings of Manichæus, who in his frenzy has written most extensively on these subjects, but discovered not any account either of the solstices, or the equinoxes, the eclipses of the luminaries, or anything of the kind I had learned in the books of secular philosophy. But therein I was ordered to believe, and yet it corresponded not with those rules acknowledged by calculation and my own sight, but was far different. … For when I hear a Christian brother ignorant of these things, or in error concerning them, I can bear with patience to see that man hold to his opinions; nor can I apprehend that any want of knowledge as to the situation or nature of this material creation can be injurious to him, so long as he does not entertain belief in anything unworthy of You, O Lord, the Creator of all. But if he conceives it to pertain to the form of the doctrine of piety, and presumes to affirm with great obstinacy that whereof he is ignorant, therein lies the injury.

    My concern is not merely for the state of your own soul as you rush about looking for signs and omens. That’s bad enough, but are you also persuading some would-be St. Augustine that if Catholics don’t even understand the basics of the visible world, how could they possibly understand the invisible world? When 2017 comes and goes, as 2012 did after much more fanfare, with no more than the normal share of tragedies, how many will you have persuaded that the Catholic Church is a bunch of ignorant superstition? Think hard about that.

  • Howard

    Father, you appear not to have actually read the very website you cite, because it actually demolishes your argument. Let me just quote the conclusion at the bottom of the page:

    Bottom line: From the standpoint of astronomy, there’s nothing unique or unusual about the sun, moon and planets – or the constellation Virgo – on September 23, 2017, despite claims on the Internet of a unique and significant celestial event, supposedly “mirroring” the Bible’s Book of Revelation. In the past 1,000 years, this same event has happened at least four times already, in 1827, 1483, 1293, and 1056.

  • Howard

    By the way, I’m just guessing that Jackie is short for Jacqueline, as it was for my teacher back in kindergarten. Jackie Robinson is the counterexample. My apologies if I’ve guessed wrongly.

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