Monthly Archives: June 2008

"Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury, Mother Churches?"

Here are some really interesting podcasts from a conference held at St. Vladimir’s Seminary entitled, “Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury. Mother Churches?” As you can see, the program is packed with good speakers. I have only listened to Hilarion Alfeyev’s presentation so far, but it goes to the heart of the matter. For more on the subject, I also recommend a paper which I have just put up (with permission) on our Commission website by Adam DeVille called “Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Primacy: A Plea for a New Common Approach”.

Thursday June 5, 2008
Metropolitan Philip-Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council
Bishop Keith Ackerman-Authority:Magisterial, Confessional or Conciliar?
Rev. J. Robert Wright (paper read by Fr. Paul Clayton)-Primacy in the Anglican Tradition
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon-Holy Scripture and the Evangelization of America
Friday June 6, 2008
Fr. John H. Erickson-Primacy and Primacies in the Orthodox Church
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus-Reconciliation Between East and West
Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev)-Primacy and Catholicity in the Orthodox Tradition
Fr. Warren Tanghe-Primacy, Authority and Communion
Panel Discussion – Where Are We So Far?
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Fellowship announcement by Fr. Stephen Platt and a greeting and remarks from Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury (delivered by Canon Jonathan Goodall from the office of the Archbishop
Metropolitan Kallistos-Primacy and the Pope
Igumen Jonah Paffhausen-Primacy and Eccesiology


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ICEL’s Fr Harbert replies to Bishop Galeone

Both Rocco Palmo and Fr Zuhlsdorf have reported on the “notes” that the chairman of ICEL, Fr Harbert, has sent to Bishop Galeone (the US bishop who raised concerns about the new translations of the propers at the Orlando USCCB meeting) and to a few other interested parties.

It is not an “official” ICEL response, but it does show the thinking behind the translations. In fact, it shows that a LOT of thinking has gone into the translations. Interestingly, Fr Harbert did not think it necessary to reply to Bishop Trautman – the noisiest and least thoughtful critic of the new translations. One imagines it was the “Trautman critique” to which Fr Harbert was referring in his compliment to Bishop Galeone at the beginning of the response:

Bishop Galeone has broken new ground in the public discussion of liturgical language, raising the debate to a higher intellectual level. Whereas critics of ICEL’s recent drafts have mostly commented on individual vocabulary items, his contribution points to structural and semantic issues that are systemic throughout the Missale. His remarks merit a careful response.

One will note that SCM’s own critical observations on the prayers has been on “structural and semantic” issues. One can always learn new vocabulary.

However, something that is obvious from reading Fr Harbert’s notes is the striking attention to detail in the new translations. If you raise a question about someting in the new translations, you can be certain that it has already been subjected to the carefully considered attention of the ICEL folk. Note too, as Fr Z. does, that the translators even gave attention to the original context in which a given latin prayer appeared historically in the liturgy.

The lesson: New ICEL is not like old ICEL! The New Tranlsations will not be like the Old Translations!


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Barney asks: Perhaps you could define "the fundamental nature and mission of the Church as the Catholic Church understands it".

Barney Zwartz of The Age poses this question in the combox on his blog in response to my comment (see the combox of the post below).

In his own article he stated that “the institutional church needs a serious bout of self-examination as it heads into its third millennium” and that “the church can become far more democratic and open without compromising its core message of hope and salvation.”

The Church he is speaking of is the Catholic Church, although what entitles Barney to publically hold forth on what this Church should or shouldn’t do is beyond me, as he isn’t a member of it (except in the “real but imperfect” sense that all believers in Christ are, Barney being one of these).

His article essentially declares his agreement with the published opinions of the “three stooges” of Australian Catholic dissent–Geoffrey Robinson, Paul Collins and Max Charlesworth. All of these argue that the Church should get with the times, that she should dump unpopular disciplines and doctrines, that she should “restructure” along the lines of democratic societies, and that “the recommended changes concern not doctrine but how the church operates”.

NO, NO, NO, NO, I argue in response. The way in which the Church is structured, is a direct reflection of the fundamental nature and mission of the Church. The Church’s manifestation as an institution in the world is not a matter of barnacles on the ship’s hull, so much as leaves on the branches of the tree. The Church is not shaped like a statue being chipped away from the outside, but like a tree growing from the inside. Yes, the “enviroment” if you wish to call it that (the age, the culture, the mores of the times) has an effect on the way in which the Church grows, but may never be the IMPULSE for the growth. A tree branch may grow around an obstacle, but the growth comes from within the tree, not from the obstacle.

Which leads to Barney’s question: What does the Catholic Church understand her fundamental nature and mission to be?

The question is immense. The answer even more so. What simple response can be given?

I will limit myself to only those responses that I doubt either Barney, or the Three Stooges, could agree on–the points where I think they part company from the Church’s understanding of herself, since Barney has said that “Because, as I understand it, I think I do accept it.”

Yes, there are many aspects of the Church’s self-understanding of her nature and mission which which I am sure Barney (and Robinson et al.) are in agreement. This would include (for instance) the the Church as “the people of God”, and the Church’s mission to proclaim the “kingdom of God”, to bring God’s love to all people, to be witnesses to Jesus Christ etc.

But does it include these essential facts of the Church’s self-understanding:

1) The Church has its pre-existent, pre-Pentecost source in the Divine and Holy Trinity, and was established on earth by Jesus Christ in the outpouring of his Spirit at Pentecost.
2) That Christ established gifts and offices in the Church, among which was apostolic teaching office, the ministerial priesthood and the Petrine Ministry (the primacy of the successor of Peter).
3) That the Church is a single, universal, visibile society upon the earth, fully present in every local church, but in such a way that the universal Church is prior to each particular Church.
4) That the Church draws her very life, existence and mission from the Eucharistic sacrifice offered by the ministerial priesthood together with the baptismal priesthood.
5) That the Spirit leads the Church into all Truth, and that the Bishop of Rome and the bishops and Councils of the Church in union with him teach with the charism of infallibility
6) That the governing authority in the Church has been committed by Christ to the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, and to them alone.

Well. Is that enough to be going on with? What about her mission? This is something that you won’t hear from the dissenting Stooges:

1) That Christ gave the Church the commission to proclaim the Gospel of redemption in his name to all nations
2) That there is salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus and that the only way to the Father is through him
3) That God has revealed objective and real knowledge about himself–real Truth–in the person of Jesus Christ and that the Church is committed to proclaim and teach this Truth and nothing else
4) That there is no salvation apart from the Church
5) That the whole Church–clergy and lay–are called to a new effort of evangelisation beginning with her own people
6) That the primary motive for this evangelisation is the love of Christ for the eternal salvation of all.

Once again, I could go on. But that should be clear enough why the Church is not much interested in democracy. Believe it or not, she is not much interested in “sex and power” either. While her members may at times be diverted from their core nature and mission, she herself remains focused. You mightn’t like it, but the “core mission” of the Church is to conform the world to Jesus Christ–not to conform the “Body of Christ” to the world.


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Thanks for that advice, Barney…

…but we generally believe that, as prerequisite, those we consult must have some sort of experience, expertise, wisdom, authority or knowledge in the area on which they are advising. In relation to the nature, structure, dogma and mission of the Catholic Church, Barney ol’ boy, you have none of these. Mind you, I’m always prepared to listen to someone who has something original or helpful to say. But your advice (published in today’s edition of The Age under the title“Catholicism should lower the drawbridge”) was lacking even in this.

I mean, was it you or your editor who chose to put in the subheading “Some changes to church doctrines would make it more appealing”? Come on, Barney. You have been reporting on the changes to doctrine in the Anglican Church long enough. You know the stats. Do you have any proof that the more “go with the flow” approach of the Anglican or Uniting Church has proved “more appealing” to Australians than the doctrinal approach of the Catholic Church?

“Now it is time to try a touch of democracy.” What? Do you think that is how it works in the Church? We try this, and if it doesn’t work, we try that? That’s a little bit like me thinking “I will put LPG gas in my car today, because it’s cheaper.” Doesn’t matter if my car doesn’t run on LPG or doesn’t even have an LPG gas tank. It looks just the same as LPG run cars, so why not give it a go and see if it will work? The Church might look like any other human organisation, but it is completely different mechanically and it runs on different fuel.

You chose as your target World Youth Day. Heck, that’s to be expected. You can virtually smell the rising tide of sectarian anti-Catholicism in the Australian media as WYD approaches. But its about YOUTH, man! So how on earth do you justify rolling out (as on wheelchairs) the opinions of the the “three stooges” of geriatric Australian Catholic Dissent: Max Charlesworth, Paul Collins, Geoffrey Robinson? It’s World YOUTH Day, man! Not World OLD DISSENTERS BEYOND THEIR USE BY DATE Day!

Barney, you say that

In fact, of course, the church can and does change — both culturally and theologically — around the edges while maintaining its central message.”

You don’t quite get it. Yes, the Church changes, but when it does so it is NOT “responding to its environment”. It is responding to its essential mission and purpose which it has from Christ himself. In different contexts, the gospel must be preached in different ways in order to remain the same gospel. The impulse for change comes from within, not from without. It is the difference between a block of stone being shaped by a chisel chipping in from the outside, and a tree being shaped by growing and changing from the inside. If you can’t get this, you won’t get the Church.

Deary me, Barney. You are the head religion reporter for one of Australia’s leading daily newspapers. Take a look at yourself, man, and ask yourself if this un-original sap you dished up for our breakfast today is the best you can come up with.


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Important information for International Pilgrims to Melbourne

On Coffee.

Melbourne is the Coffee centre of the world. Yes, it is true. We make the best coffee anywhere. Or at least we did until Starbuck’s invaded. (And, for those who have had the benefit, I make a fairly decent cuppa here in the Ecumenical and Interfaith office with my Krups machine – ask those who have had the experience – with nice little halal bikkies to go with it).

Marco Vervoost has found an interesting note on Wikipedia about Australian Coffee:

Flat white
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A flat white is a coffee beverage served in Australia and New Zealand, prepared with espresso and milk. The drink is generally made with an ⅓ espresso and ⅔ steamed milk. The volumised milk is prepared by folding the top layer into the lower layers [1].

A flat white is the same as a properly made North American Cafe Latte, but differs from a Starbucks style latte in the preparation of the milk. Australian lattes and flat whites are usually served in 215-240ml cups, making them stronger than some lattes in other countries.

While this is right about the strength of the coffee (isn’t that the main point after taste?), it is wrong in its description of a “flat white”. What this article describes is, in fact, also called a “latte” here in Oz. A “flat white” is espresso coffee with steam volumised milk added, but in proportions closer to 2/3 coffee and 1/3 milk. It is a glorified example of what most people would simply call “a white coffee”, ie. coffee with milk. NOT milk with coffee (that’s a “latte”).

And for you Yankees and Canadians: forget about asking for a “coffee with cream” here in Melbourne. It won’t work. You will just get a funny look. Ask for a “flat white” and you will get something close to what you are looking for. Only better.

PS. And if you like even less milk in your coffee, go for a “macchiato


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"I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it": Spengler on the "threat" Christianity poses to Islam

I’m still here, and still battling my bad neck, so that’s why there isn’t much blogging going on.

Today I read this interesting opinion piece by Spengler: “The Pope, the President and the Politics of Faith”.

I just love his line on Pope Benedict’s “threat” to the world: “I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it.” You can just imagine the Holy Father striding into town and saying “Go ahead, make my day.”

But I was somewhat surprised at one of his opening remarks:

Muslims suspect that the pope wants to convert them, a threat they never have had to confront in Islam’s 1,500-year history.

What does he mean by that? Surely we, as Christians, have been “threatening” to convert Muslims for centuries?

But Spengler, as always, thinks a little differently from received opinion. His point is that

For the first time, perhaps, since the time of Mohammed, large parts of the Islamic world are vulnerable to Christian efforts to convert them, for tens of millions of Muslims now dwell as minorities in predominantly Christian countries. The Muslim migration to Europe is a double-edged sword. Eventually this migration may lead to a Muslim Europe, but it also puts large numbers of Muslims within reach of Christian missionaries for the first time in history.

He concludes his essay with:

Islam is in danger for the first time since its founding. The evangelical Christianity to which George W Bush adheres and the emerging Asian church are competitors with whom it never had to reckon in the past. The European Church may be weak, but no weaker, perhaps, than in the 8th century after the depopulation of Europe and the fall of Rome. An evangelizing European Church might yet repopulate Europe with new Christians as it did more than a millennium ago.

Yes, it just might. Even yet.


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One US bishop who "speaks the English"…

HT to Rocco Palmo for this one from the chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Divine Worship, Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson:

Words, like people’s dress, change from one generation to the next and from one group to another in the same society. What one individual calls a “swamp,” another more ecologically conscious individual calls “wetlands.” A politician waxes eloquently about “public participation.” His audience understands him to say “self-denial.” The corporate world routinely uses the noun impact as a transitive verb. People follow happily along.

Today, politically correct as well as linguistically conscious individuals carefully circumvent the word “man” not to offend women. Past generations pronounced the word with never the slightest intention of excluding women. But times have changed. We speak now about humankind. Certainly, we have gained inclusivity. Yet, we have sacrificed language that is not so abstract.

English always has been an open language, ready to welcome neologisms. The Internet has enriched our speech with new phrases and words. Text messaging is altering our spelling and our syntax. Language is a human expression. As people change, so does the way they speak.

In his popular rhetorical guide, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum, Erasmus, the 16th century Dutch humanist and theologian, showed students 150 different styles they could use when phrasing the Latin sentence, Tuae literae me magnopere delectarunt (Your letter has delighted me very much). Clearly, no single translation of any sentence or work will ever completely satisfy everyone. Even the best of all possible translations of the new Missal will have its critics.

But there is something more at stake than pleasing individual tastes and preferences in the new liturgical translations. The new translations aim at a “language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves … dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision” (Liturgiam Authenticam, 25). The new translations now being prepared are a marked improvement over the translations with which we have become familiar. They are densely theological. They respect the rich vocabulary of the Roman Rite. They carefully avoid the overuse of certain phrases and words.

The new translations also have a great respect for the style of the Roman Rite. Certainly, some sentences could be more easily translated to mimic our common speech. But they are not. And with reason. Latin orations, especially Post-Communions, tend to conclude strongly with a teleological or eschatological point. The new translations in English follow the sequence of these Latin prayers in order to end on a strong note. Many of our current translations of these prayers end weakly. Why should we strip the English translation of the distinctive theological emphases of the Latin text? A slightly non-colloquial word order can lead the listener to a greater attention to the point of the prayer.

Our present liturgical texts are framed in simple syntax. The new translations use more subordinate clauses. This, in and of itself, does not render them unproclaimable. By the very fact that, in some instances, the new translations require thoughtful and careful attention to pauses when speaking helps to foster and create a less rushed and more reverent way of praying. Not a small gain for a proper ars celebrandi.

The new translation at times may use uncommon words like “ineffable.” The word is not unspeakable! For sure, this word does not come from the street language of the contemporary individual. But, then, why cannot the liturgy use words that elevate the language from the street to the altar? People may not use certain words in their active vocabulary. This does not mean they will be baffled by their use in the liturgy. “If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities” (Liturgiam Authenticam, 27).

Liturgical language should border on the poetic. Prose bumps along the ground. Poetry soars to the heavens. And our Liturgy is already a sharing of the Liturgy in heaven.

The liturgical texts that we are now using are not perfect, but they are familiar. This familiarity makes celebrants at ease with the present texts. The new texts are better. When the new texts are implemented, they will require more attention on the part of the celebrant. But any initial uneasiness will yield to familiarity and to a language that is well suited to the Liturgy.


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More on Paul on Salvation, Faith, Justification etc.

Dan Woodring is continuing to work out a few issues surrounding Justification on his Beatus Vir blog. Despite his account of his conversion to be found on those pages, he might still find that (like me, and, I suspect, Neuhaus) that a lot of “Lutheran” still sticks in the basic way of thinking about Catholic issues.

I am continuing in my regular reading preparing for the course I am teaching (Reading Paul – you can still come along any time if you live in Melbourne but we are having our last lecture before the World Youth Day madness begins this Monday and won’t meet again until the first Monday in August).

We are working through Galatians, and this week will read that famous passage, Galatians 2:16, translated by RSV (and NRSV and NIV and the NASB and the NKJV) as:

“…that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law…”

On the other hand, the KJV has this more accurate translation of the Greek:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law…”

The “new perspective” makes much of the correct translation of the greek genitive without any prepositions, and claims that a proper translation would be

“…not justified by the works of the Law, but through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ…”

The two genitives (“ex ergon nomou” / “dia pisteos Iesou Christou”) are parallel, and suggest that in the new covenant a person is not accounted righteous according to his keeping of the Torah but according to the “faithfulness of Jesus Christ”, ie. according to Christ’s faithful obedience to the will of the Father.

To me this makes a lot of sense. It does not reject the important place that our own “faith IN Christ” has in our justification, but it does point out that the basis of our justification is not OUR faith (something we do) but Christ’s faithfulness (something he has done for us).

A few verses later (Gal 2:20) comes Paul’s famous saying

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here he does use prepositions (chiefly “en” which can be translated either “in” or “by”) but even here the traditional translations are a bit sloppy. The repeated “en” occurs at “en emoi” (“in me”), “en sarki” (“in the flesh”), and “en pistei” (“in faith”), but most clearly is NOT there in the phrase “te tou hiou tou theou” (“that [ie. that faith] which is of the Son of God”). Again we have the genitive “faith/faithfulness of the Son of God”. So a better translation of this passage would be:

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Which [life] I now live in the flesh, I live in faith[fulness], the [faithfulness] of God’s Son, who has loved and given himself for me.”

Now here Paul has moved away somewhat from the forensic/legal category of “justification” to a more mystical participatory image of his life “in faith”. It describes–not so much his “life in Christ” as “Christ’s life in him”. But remarkably he does not say here that this life is “by faith in the Son of God” (the traditional translation), but rather “in the faithfulness of the Son of God”, and the faithfulness of God’s Son consists precisely in this: That God’s Son has loved me and given himself for me. See? Again it is NOT the faith that I have in him, but what HE has done for me.

And then we come to the great “simul justus et peccator” idea that has so much importance in Lutheran thought. In exactly the same passage (Galatians 2:15) Paul seems to rule out any idea that one can be in the category of “(gentile) sinner” at the same time as being declared “righteous” (ie. a fully paid up member of the People of God, the Children of Abraham). Paul certainly knows that even righteous Christian believers commit sin–even in his pre-Christian life he would certainly have admitted that those who were children of Abraham by birth (ie. Jewish) still committed sins–but when he talks in terms of “sinners” and “righteous” he is (as was Jesus in the Gospels) speaking in categories, not in terms of individual acts of sin. “Living in sin” or being “dead in sin” (both paradoxically meaning the same thing) referred to someone who was not “justified”, ie. who had not (by birth according to the Law as the Jews claimed or by faith in Jesus Christ as Paul taught) been declared to be righteous. No Christian who lives by faith can be said to be “dead in sin”, even though they daily commit sin which requires repentance and forgiveness.

The whole of Ephesians 2:1-10 makes it clear that Christians WERE “dead through sin”, but NOW God has “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with him”. There is truly no sense of being equally totally “peccator” at the same time as one is equally totally “justus” in this passage.

What difference could such a consideration make to our ecumenical dialogues? I keep asking this question, because we say that we want to be scriptural in our teaching and that the Scriptures are our highest authority. Yet we keep reading them through the controversies of the 6th and 16th Centuries.


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Time for a chuckle

It’s not immediately a funny picture, so at first I wondered why the Ironic Catholic wanted to launch a caption competition for it.

But one of the winning captions really made me smile:

“Guys, just because you don’t labor doesn’t mean you should actively ignore me. That’s just rude.” (notanillusion)

1 Comment

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19th Century English Novelists: More on Chesterton on Dickens

First, a little quiz. See if you can put a name to each of the following photographs.

Now, before I reveal the mystery of the final character, another question: Who is your favourite 19th Century English novelist?

All this is apropos of the fact that I have just finished listening to Chesterton’s Dickens. The final chapter (a very badly read Librivox recording of Chapter Twelve — I guess we get what we pay for in quality!) includes this paragraph:

At a certain period of [Dickens’] contemporary fame, an average Englishman would have said that there were at that moment in England about five or six able and equal novelists. He could have made a list, Dickens, Bulwer Lytton, Thackeray, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, perhaps more. Forty years or more have passed and some of them have slipped to a lower place. Some would now say that the highest platform is left to Thackeray and Dickens; some to Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot; some to Dickens, Thackeray, and Charlotte Brontë. I venture to offer the proposition that when more years have passed and more weeding has been effected, Dickens will dominate the whole England of the nineteenth century; he will be left on that platform alone.

Who on earth is Bulwer Lytton? Well, for starters, he is the person in the third picture above (after Dickens and Chesterton, of course). According to Wikipedia:

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (May 25, 1803–January 18, 1873) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, and politician. Lord Lytton was a florid, popular writer of his day, who coined such phrases as “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, and the infamous incipit “It was a dark and stormy night.” Despite his popularity in his heyday, today his name is known as a byword for bad writing. San Jose State University’s annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing is named after him.

There must be something to be said of a man whose phrases are better remembered than any of his works as a whole…

But what got me wondering about who Bulwer Lytton was, was the writers that Chesterton left off his list. According to my calculations, Anthony Trollope (one of my favourite 19th Century authors) was a near enough contemporary with Dickens. But not even an honourary mention from Chesterton. Is he telling me he didn’t enjoy reading the Barchestor Chronicles? I can barely credit it. Even Wikipedia’s short entry on the 19th Century English novel mentions Trollope (but NOT, I note, Bulwer Lytton!).

He leaves off Jane Austen (at her height when Dickens was born) and Thomas Hardy (just getting going when Dickens died). He doesn’t mention Lewis Carroll (wrong genre?).

Of course, the remarkable thing is that many of these authors have been given new life through very high quality TV and Cinema adaptions in recent years. Scores of Austen’s (current run on the ABC TV on Sunday nights is terrific), great Dickens (the recent BBC production of Bleak House was very good), superb Trollope’s, Thackery’s etc. etc. I have yet, however, to spot a production of Bulwer Lytton…

Anyway. Who’s your favourite nineteenth century English author? Anyone Chesterton and I have not covered?


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