Tag Archives: praise

18 May: Environment Novena – Day V

Red Sussex calves

Environment Novena – Day 5

The fifth of nine days of prayer and readings for tangible action to respond to the urgent climate change issues we all face. Here is the whole posting.

Bless the Lord, all things that grow on the earth,
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Daniel 3.

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25 March: As Jesus was Speaking Luke 11:27-28

Sister Johanna was not thinking solely of the Annunciation when she composed this reflection, but the whole relationship between Jesus and Mary is there, as a newly germinated seed.

The woman who engages Jesus in this story receives his attention, respect, and a challenge. Our picture from the Baptistry of the Abbey of St Maurice, Switzerland, shows another encounter between Jesus and a woman – the Samaritan at the Well. Jesus is shown as the Word, his book showing Alpha and Omega, symbols to be engraved upon the Paschal Candle in ten days from now.

As Jesus was Speaking (Luke 11:27-28)

It happened that as Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you!’ But he replied, ‘More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’ (see Luke 11:27-28).

Jesus’ behaviour to women is a study that goes far beyond what I can do in a short reflection. But I think it might be safe to say that in his conduct toward women Jesus is both straightforward and courteous. At times he is more the first than the second, and becomes surprisingly frank – but only with those women who reveal in the course of the conversation that they are capable of dealing with his frankness – and he seems to be unerring in knowing who they are ahead of time. Something in their glance, maybe? Or the way they stand? I don’t know. But in this instance, recorded by St Luke (11:27-28), Jesus takes the other approach. He is very gentle here in the way he corrects this woman’s words.

She is clearly a well-meaning person, but nonetheless, she only gets it partially right and Jesus is not really happy with what she says. This passage has often puzzled me; at first glance, I couldn’t find anything really wrong with her words. I wondered why Jesus found it necessary to add his bit. Why couldn’t he just let it go? After all, his mother was blessed. As I was pondering this seemingly small exchange and asking the Lord to enlighten me about it, it occurred to me for the first time that the words the woman uses in praise of Jesus’ mother may very well have been an expression that was common among pious Jewish women at that time – almost formulaic. A bit of research revealed that my hunch was correct.* It’s likely that these words were a saying used when it was clear that some woman’s grown son had turned out well. Even so, what is wrong with it?

As I pondered, the matter began to clarify. First I realised that, yes, Jesus’ mother deserves praise, always and everywhere, but Jesus was not content to let his mother be praised in words that failed to take in the full scope of her blessedness. She was not blessed merely because she bore Jesus and fed him. Such a blessing could apply to every mother who succeeds in bearing and feeding her child. But Jesus knew well and truly that no one had ever been or would ever be like his mother. Such faith as hers was unprecedented in religious history. The archangel Gabriel visited her, proclaimed her ‘full of grace,’ and gave her God’s message. She, in turn, gave her entire being, body and soul, to God in her response to the angel’s words, and she conceived Jesus miraculously, not by sexual intercourse, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. In every sense, and throughout her entire life, Jesus’ mother lived her faith in a way that was beyond the power of ordinary words to praise. And yet, here she was, being praised in a mere commonplace. Jesus knew he needed somehow to adjust the inadequate words that were cried out by this well-meaning woman – and without hurting her.

But even more needed to be said. (I wonder if Jesus groaned a bit inwardly on first hearing the woman’s words.) Although the words were mainly about Jesus’ mother, Jesus himself was misrepresented by them. He – unlike us in our wandering life-journey – never lost sight of his identity as Son, and of his mission to the world. Therefore, anything implying that he could be properly understood as, say, his mother’s ‘pride and joy,’ was so wide of the mark that it could not be allowed at all. It would confuse matters, not so much for Jesus, but for his followers. Because of who Jesus and Mary are, they had a unique relationship in an absolute sense. Jesus did not live in such a way as to fulfil an ordinary mother’s ordinary expectations – the episode of finding Jesus in the temple when he was twelve years old makes that clear (see Luke 2: 41-50) – if any clarity was needed after the extraordinary revelations of glory surrounding Jesus’ birth. Jesus loved his mother – and provided for her care with his last breath as he died on the Cross (see John 19:26-27) – but he is not the doting son in any common sense. And surely, by this time in Jesus’ adult life, his mother will have grasped – somehow – the unfathomable truth that her son was the Father’s Beloved Son, and that his mission as saviour of the world superseded all other claims, hers included. So, as I reflect, I become aware that we are not meant to pigeon-hole Jesus as this woman’s words seem to do. His identity and mission, as well as his mother’s identity and mission, are matters for deepest contemplation. We will never plumb their depths – certainly not in this life. Therefore Jesus and Mary exist, then and now, as a challenge to our cultural mores, our family customs, and even some of our religious categories. These woman’s words of praise unwittingly “shrink” both Jesus and Mary down to a size that seems more manageable, but, in doing so, she also makes Jesus and Mary too small even to recognise.

What was Jesus to do in this awkward situation? How to respond?

Masterfully, brilliantly, Jesus, in one sentence, managed to achieve everything. First, he was able to use some of the woman’s words, as if to tell her, ‘Yes, what you say is good. But together we can make it even better.’ (Few of us would object to that.) So Jesus keeps hold of her desire to give a blessing (thereby affirming her) and says, ‘More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’ In these words, Jesus praises his mother rightly, for she alone of all women heard the word of God through the Angel Gabriel’s message and opened her heart and body to a depth that was and remains unprecedented. She ‘kept’ the word of God by literally giving birth to the word of God. Jesus does not want to give a theology lesson to the woman here, but he leaves us with words of such profundity that they are still yielding treasures to us two millennia later. Second, Jesus opens up this blessing to apply it to all people, men and women alike – even the hapless speaker in our text. The motherhood of Mary is, in fact, a vocation open to every person who hears the word of God and keeps it. Jesus had, after all, been speaking to a crowd of people. (‘As he was speaking,’ the text says, ‘a woman in the crowd’ cried out.) Jesus is always keen to invite all people into the state of blessedness and joy that is one of the signs of the presence of the kingdom now, on earth. This situation gave Jesus the opportunity to teach a deep truth about the kingdom and invite everyone in. And lastly, there is an implication about Jesus himself contained in his words. Jesus is the word of God. To ‘hear’ the word of God and ‘keep’ it is to be in a dynamic relationship not merely with a biblical text, but with the person of Jesus. There is no greater joy, no greater blessing than that.

This is a biblical text of only two lines. Look at it closely and it tells a story, which, had it happened to anyone else, would doubtless have ended rather awkwardly. But it happened to Jesus, and without distressing any well-meaning actor in this story, he broadens its message to praise his mother rightly, and include all men, all women, and all time in a salvific blessedness that will endure even in heaven. Blessed be He!

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25 January. Week of Prayer for Church Unity, Day VIII: Reconciling with all of creation

“So that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

Colossians 1:15-20 In him all things hold together

Mark 4:30-32 As small as a mustard seed

Meditation

The hymn to Christ in the epistle to the Colossians invites us to sing the praise of God’s salvation, which encompasses the entire universe. Through the crucified and risen Christ, a path of reconciliation has been opened up; creation too is destined for a future of life and peace.

With the eyes of faith, we see that the kingdom of God is a reality that is very close but still hardly visible – like a mustard seed. However, it is growing. Even in the distress of our world the Spirit of the Risen One is at work. He encourages us to become involved – with all people of good will – in tirelessly seeking justice and peace, and ensuring the earth is once again a home for all creatures.

We participate in the work of the Spirit so that creation in all its fullness may continue to praise God. When nature suffers, when human beings are crushed, the Spirit of the risen Christ – far from allowing us to lose heart – invites us to become part of his work of healing. The newness of life that Christ brings, however hidden, is a light of hope for many. It is a wellspring of reconciliation for the whole of creation and contains a joy that comes from beyond ourselves: “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

“Do you wish to celebrate the newness of life that Christ gives through the Holy Spirit, 
and let it live in you, among us, in the church, in the world and in all of creation?”
                                                            Second promise made during profession at the Community of Grandchamp.

Prayer

Thrice-holy God, 
we thank you for having created and loved us. 
We thank you for your presence in us and in creation. 
May we learn to look upon the world as you look upon it, 
with love. 
In the hope of this vision, may we be able to work for a world 
where justice and peace flourish, 
for the glory of your name.

Questions

  • How much does your life declare God’s salvation? What view of God would others have from how you live?
  • What could your church(es) and community do together to make justice and peace flourish in your locality?
  • How does your church or group of churches care for God’s creation? What changes, large or small, could you make which would make that care more effective?

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20 January, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: A prayer service for small groups.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021

Service for use at home or in small gatherings

  • This service could be read for personal prayer, as large gatherings in church are unlikely to happen this year.

Each person needs a card heart, a pencil/pen and a tea light.

Music is played as people gather and a candle is lit in the middle of a large circle which everyone sits around.

Opening Prayer

Lord, you invite us to abide in you who are the vinedresser who cares for us with love.

You call on us to see the beauty of each branch united to the vine,

the beauty of each person.

And yet, too often the differences in others make us afraid.

We withdraw into ourselves. Our trust in you and one another is lost.

Come and direct our hearts toward you once again.

That as one family we may praise your name.

Amen.

Litany of praise

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the midst of the world and among all peoples,

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the midst of creation and among all creatures.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise among suffering and tears,

Reader 2 We sing your praise among promises and achievements.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the places of conflict and misunderstanding;

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the places of encounter and reconciliation.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the midst of rifts and divisions,

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the midst of life and death, the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

First VigilAbiding in Christ: the unity of the whole person

Reading: Jn 15:1-17

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader God of love, through Christ you said to us: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” You invite us to receive your friendship. Teach us to respond more deeply to this invitation, and to grow and grow in a life that is ever more complete.

WPCU 2021 simplified / 2

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God of life, you call us to be praise in the midst of the world and to accept one another. May your loving gaze, which rests upon each person, inspire us to celebrate each other just as we are.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God you who gather, you knit us together as one vine in Jesus. May your loving Spirit abide in us at church and in our community that together we may celebrate you with joy.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God of the one vineyard, you call us to live in your love in all we do and say. Touched by your goodness, grant us to be a reflection of that love in our homes, schools and workplaces.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Action: A time of silence where we reflect on God’s love, after which music is played as everyone writes/draws their name on their card and takes it up and places it by the candle.

Second VigilThe visible unity of Christians

Psalm: 85

Reading: 1 Cor 1:10-13a

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader Holy Spirit, you create and re-create the Church in all places. Come and whisper in our hearts the prayer which Jesus addressed to his Father on the eve of his passion: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe”.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, light the fire of your love in us so that suspicions and misunderstanding cease in the Church. May the walls that separate us fall.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Holy Spirit, Consoler of all, open our hearts to forgiveness and reconciliation and bring us back to you when we lose our way.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, give us poverty of spirit so that we may be open to your grace.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Holy Spirit, you never abandon the men, women and children who are persecuted for their faithfulness to the gospel. Give them strength and courage, and support those who help them.

All Thank you. Amen.

Action: Let us exchange a sign of Christ’s peace as our prayer and commitment to unity.

WPCU 2021 simplified / 3

Then each takes up their tea light and lights it from the main candle and places it by their heart.

Third VigilThe unity of all peoples with all creation

Psalm: 96

Reading: Rev. 7: 9-12

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader God of life, you have created everyone in your image and likeness. We sing your praise for the gift of our many cultures and traditions. Grant us the courage to stand against injustice and prejudice

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader Merciful God, you have shown us in Christ that we are one in you. Teach us to use this gift in the world so that believers of all faiths in every country may be able to listen to each other and live in peace

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader O Jesus, you came into the world and shared fully in our humanity. You know the hardships of life for people who suffer in so many different ways. May the Spirit of compassion move us to share our time, gifts and resources with all those in need.

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader Holy Spirit, you hear the fury of your wounded creation and the cries of those already suffering from climate change. Guide us toward new ways of living that are in harmony with all creation.

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Action: Moving to the centre and out to the world (inspired by a text of Dorotheus of Gaza). Everyone stands and takes a step towards the candle and extends hands towards each other.

Reader At the centre of the world is God, in whom all our desires and longings find their meeting place.

As we move closer to God, so we draw closer to one another. And the closer we come to one another . . .

All The closer we come to God.

Short time of silence followed by the Lord’s Prayer after which people return to their seats and pray using words the Grandchamp nuns pray each day…

Reader Will you Pray and work that God may reign?

All With Gods help, we will.

Reader Throughout your day will you let the Word of God breathe life into your work and play and rest?

All With God’s help, we will.

Reader Will you maintain inner silence in all things so as to dwell in Christ?

WPCU 2021 simplified / 4

All With God’s help, we will.

Amen.

Suitable music could be played at this point.

Blessing

Reader Be one, so that the world may believe! Abide in God’s love, go into the world and bear the fruits of this love.

All May the God of all creation, fill us with all joy and all peace in faith, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

This simplified version of the Ecumenical Celebration was prepared by Lynne Chitty, on behalf of ROOTS for Churches Ltd.

ROOTS publishes weekly worship and learning resources at www.rootsontheweb.com

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10 October, Little Flowers LXXXII: Dens in the Woods 6.

Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

And the feast of the Assumption being now come, Saint Francis began the holy fast with great abstinence and severity, mortifying his body and comforting his spirit with fervent prayers, vigils, and scourglngs ; and in these prayers ever growing from virtue to virtue he made ready his soul to receive the divine mysteries and the divine splendours, and his body to endure the cruel assaults of the demons, with whom he oftentimes fought in sensible form.

It befell on a time during that fast, that Saint Francis leaving his cell one day in fervour of spirit and going aside a little to pray in a hollow of the rock, from the which down to the ground is an exceeding deep descent and a horrible and fearful precipice, suddenly the devil came in terrible shape, with a tempest and exceeding loud roar, and struck at him for to push him down thence. Saint Francis, not having where to flee, and not being able to endure the grim aspect of the demon, he turned him quickly with hands and face and all his body pressed to the rock, commending himself to God, and groping with his hands, if perchance he might find aught to cling to. But as it pleased God, who suffereth not His servants to be tempted above that they are able to bear, suddenly by a miracle the rock to which he clung hollowed itself out in fashion as the shape of his body, and so received him into itself, and like as if he had put his hands and face in melted wax, even so was the form of the face and hands of Saint Francis imprinted on the rock; and thuswise helped of God he escaped out of the hands of the demon.

But that which the demon could not then do unto Saint Francis, to wit, push him down thence, he did a good while after the death of Saint Francis, unto one of his dear and pious brothers, who was setting in order some pieces of wood in the selfsame place, to the end that it might be possible to win there without peril, out of devotion to Saint Francis and the miracle that was wrought there, on a day the demon pushed him, while he had on his head a great log that he wished to set there, and made him fall down thence with the log upon his head. But God that had preserved and delivered Saint Francis from falling, through his merits delivered and preserved his pious brother from the peril of his fall; for the brother, as he fell, with exceeding great devotion commended himself in a loud voice unto Saint Francis; and straightway he appeared unto him, and catching him, set him down upon the rocks, without suffering him to feel or shock or any hurt.

Then the other brothers having heard his cry as he fell, and deeming him dead and dashed in pieces by reason of his fall from such a height upon the sharp rocks, with great sorrow and weeping took up the bier and came from the other side of the mountain for to gather up the fragments of his body and bury them. When they were come down from the mountain, that brother that had fallen met them with the log upon his head wherewith he had fallen, and he was singing Te Deum laudamus1 in a loud voice.

1We praise you, O God.

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7 October, Little Flowers LXXIX: Dens in the Woods 3.

Devils in Canterbury Cathedral! Merely migrating to the mountain did not cut the brothers off from all cares and temptations. Francis here meets Brother Leo’s need for a physical token of God’s grace and Francis’s esteem and love for him. No telling him not to be silly or superstitious! Who does not have one or two personal relics like this? Grandfather’s spade, grandmother’s bedside table; a cup, a picture …

Brother Leo being assailed by the devil with a grievous temptation, not of the flesh but of the spirit, there came to him a great desire to have some devout sentence written by the hand of Saint Francis, for he thought that if he had it, that temptation would leave him, or wholly, or in part. Having this desire, yet for shame and reverence sake he dared not tell it to Saint Francis: but what Brother Leo told him not, that did the Holy Spirit reveal. Wherefore Saint Francis called him unto him, and made him bring ink-pot and pen and paper; and with his own hand wrote the praises of Christ, even as the brother had desired; and at the end he made the sign Tau, and gave it to him, saying, “Take this paper, dear brother, and keep it diligently until thy death. May God bless thee and guard thee against all temptation. Be not downcast, because thou hast temptations ; for at such time I deem thee a friend and a better servant of God, and the more thou art assailed by temptations, the more do I love thee, Verily I say unto thee that no man should deem himself a true friend of God, save in so far as he hath passed through many temptations and tribulations.”

When Brother Leo took this writing with great devotion and faith, straightway all his temptation left him and returning to his own place, he told his companions, with great joy, what grace God had shown unto him when he took the writing from Saint Francis; and putting it aside and taking diligent care thereof, the brothers afterwards worked many miracles by its means. And from that hour forth, the said Brother Leo with great purity and with good intention began to keep watch upon and to observe the life of Saint Francis : and for his purity’s sake, he merited to see Saint Francis full many and many a time rapt in God and uplifted from the earth.

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27 November: When morning gilds the skies.

birch.png

A couple of weeks ago, this was the sight when I opened the curtains. (I had already been downstairs a little while, I’m not always such a late riser!) The golden light, filtered by the birch leaves was lovely indeed, an invitation to get out into the air.

And a call to prayer as vocal in its way as Great Dunstan or Harry, the chief bells of Canterbury Cathedral. I am reminded again of Edward Caswall’s verse which we shared in April:

When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

I hope you have enjoyed the gilded skies and landscapes of Autumn, if you live in the temperate Northern Hemisphere; may you have peace in your heart and home as you go through Advent and prepare to praise the infant Jesus Christ.

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27 October, Month of Mission: Prayer of Blessing.

hands pray dove.JPG

My catechism told me that: ‘prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God.’ Short and sweet, but insufficient. This prayer from USPG, the Anglican missionary society, shows that we should raise all our being and the whole of creation to God – and let our prayer work within us to discern and carry out our mission of forgiveness and healing to all people, all creation. And as Saint Paul tells us, it is the Spirit that prays in us.

Blessed be God in the joy of creation.
Blessed be God in the sending of Jesus.
Blessed be God in the work of the Spirit.
Blessed be God in martyr and saint.
Blessed be God in the spread of the gospel
to every race
and every land.
Blessed be God in the church of our day
in its preaching and witness
and its treasures of grace.
Blessed be God who has called us to mission
who forgives and who heals
and is strength in our weakness.
USPG

Carving from Saint David’s Cathedral, Pembroke.

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5 August, Little flowers of Saint Francis LVI: Saint Antony and the fish, 2.

anthony and Francis

What did you expect from a sermon to the fish? They got a brilliant theology of Creation, from Scripture to science without any contradictions. Laudato Si!

The fishes being set in order and array, Saint Antony began solemnly to preach, and so spake: “My brothers the fish, much are ye bounden so far as in ye lies, to give thanks to our Creator, who hath given you so noble an element for your abode; in such sort that as it pleaseth you, ye have sweet waters and salt; and hath given you many a refuge to escape the storms withal; nay more, hath given you a clear, translucent element, and food by the which ye may live.

God, your kind and bountiful Creator, when He created you, gave you commandment to increase and multiply, and poured on you His blessing: then whenas the deluge came and one and all the other beasts all died, you alone did God keep safe from harm. Moreover hath He given you fins that ye may roam where’er ye please.

To you the grace was given, by God’s command, to save the prophet Jonah, and after the third day to throw him safe and whole upon the land. Ye brought the tribute-money to our Lord Jesu Christ, who was so poor, He had not aught to pay.Ye were the food of the eternal King, Jesus Christ, before the Resurrection and thereafter, through a mystery wondrous rare; for all the which things much are ye bound to bless and praise God, who hath given you so many and so great blessings more than to other creatures.”

Antony with some of his fish, alongside Francis. Public Domain via Wikipedia.

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May 16. What is Theology Saying? LIII: Salvation outside the Church II.

 

archway.amsterdam. (2)

austinWhen the first Christians claimed a new covenant, they were aware of how the word new had been interpreted in the prophetic writings. Later generations spoke of old and new covenants – with the presumption the old was past its sell-by date. This is mistaken, the facts of history contradict it. The Jews have been faithful to Covenant in large numbers, even to the point of martyrdom; and Scripture tells us that God does not desert those who are faithful.

Some believe the issue is simple. If the Jews had really been faithful they would have recognised Jesus as Messiah, and have been part of the new covenant. But since they do not recognise Jesus as Messiah, we can assume they are unfaithful to the covenant. For this reason history left them behind as forever lost.

Such a view leaves all kinds of questions unaddressed. Even if it was perfectly clear that Jesus is the Messiah, we must remember that the Jews of the dispersion had never had the gospel preached to them. For example, exactly when did the covenant go out of date? Was it at Pentecost or at the death of the last Apostle? Also, does the Jewish participation in the covenant not remain in date until the end of time?

The only contact many Jews through the centuries had with Christians and the Gospel was that of persecution and victimisation in various forms of anti-Semitism. And many were told to renounce Judaism in favour of Christianity – if you are persecuted on account of your Christian faith and told to recant, would you see this as an act of God? We must accept the possibility that Jews cannot accept Jesus as the expected Messiah because he is not yet Messiah. We who are the presence of Jesus have not yet produced the promised signs of the Messianic presence. We know what these signs are – the Prophets are full of them, and the Gospels have Jesus quoting them.

The signs of Messianic times are: peace among nations and all people; perfect fraternity; justice for the poor and the powerless; no more violence and enmity; and all coming together to praise the one God in their own ways in peace, without hindrance. When Paul writes of these signs he says there is no discrimination in Christ between Jew and Gentile, between cultured Greeks and primitive Barbarians, between men who had all kinds of rights and women who had none. Today we might add: no discrimination between white or black, gay or straight, rich nations and poor – no annexation of the poor by the powerful.

AMcC

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