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Ezekiel 8:3-6: Abominations in the Temple

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes

Footnotes tell us that there truly was an abomination set in the temple by King Manasseh (see 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33) and later removed by King Josiah (2 Kings 23).  It was a statue of Asherah, a Syrian goddess.  (If you want to read about her, you can go to www.jewishencyclopedia.com.)  Footnotes also tell us that although the statue had been removed, it was likely re-established with the re-paganization of Jerusalem when Josiah died.  In any event, the point is that something sacred, the dwelling place of Yahweh, is profaned by the very people who should be protecting and honoring it.  Do we do this from time to time in our own lives?  Do we allow sacred places and sacred people to be invaded or desecrated?  Do we worship symbols that make us feel good rather than God who brings us joy?  Are we paralyzed in our old and comfortable habits rather than learning to live in the newness of Christ?  Are we blind to the needs of others?  Do we have deafness of heart?  Or do we hear the cry of poor and the broken-hearted?

From the morning and evening MAGNIFICAT intercessions:

Free those who are paralyzed by sinful ways, and teach them to run with joy in the way of your commandments.

Give sight to those who are blinded by self-centeredness, and teach them to see the beauty of those around them.

Grant hearing to those who are deaf of heart, and teach them to rejoice in your word.

You build us into a dwelling place in the Spirit: fill us with the glory of your presence.

We are human.  We find comfort in things which bring us immediate satisfaction.  But this comfort is not lasting.

We are divine.  We find serenity in things that spring from God.  And this serenity is everlasting.


Written on April 21, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/passovertrial/cosmicdrama.shtml

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning” and “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.11 (2008). Print.  

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Luke 10:38-42: Martha and Mary

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Vermeer: Martha and Mary

There is only need of one thing.

There is a time for action and a time for reflection.  This well-known story of Martha and Mary reminds us of the opening of Chapter 3 in Ecclesiastes: There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.  And frequently these times occur at once, leaving us a bit dizzy and exhausted.  We need not worry that we have missed an opportunity, for God always allows us another opportunity to amend.  What we must do is to allow ourselves enough action time balanced with quiet time . . . in order that we both witness and wait.

There is only need of one thing.

This story is followed by the time when Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray to the Father.  I always think it must have been startling for his followers to hear that he encouraged them to address the creator with the name of Abba . . . Father, a name of endearment and intimacy.  This relationship with God that Jesus urges is quite different from the one which Israel had experienced as chosen tribe.  This new relationship is one in which we are loved beyond measure, it is one in which we are urged to ask so that we might receive.  It is one in which we are encouraged to petition so that we might be answered.

There is only need of one thing.

In the midst of so many seasons, so many turnings, so many routes, so many options . . . There is only need of one thing . . . to listen to the voice of God, to witness and to wait, to petition and to ask . . . Abba, Father . . .

There is only need of one thing.


Image from: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm

For a wonderful site that tells us so much about Martha and Mary, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm

Also you may like this reflection on The Greatest Vocation at: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/07/greatest-vocation.html

Written on June 9, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Judith 7: The Heart of the Just

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Titian: Judith and the Head of Holofernes

This is one of my favorite stories – perhaps because the protagonist is a woman.  A good commentary will let us know that there were Hebrew, Latin and Greek versions of this story and that while no one knows the actual events which this narrative describes, it is meant as a text that will bolster the peoples’ faith in the presence of God among them.  It is “a tract for difficult times; the reader, it is hoped, would take to heart the lesson that God was still the Master of history, who would save Israel from her enemies.  Note the parallel with the time of Exodus: as God had delivered his people by the hands of Moses, so he could deliver them by the hand of the pious widow Judith”.  (Senior 520)

Chapter 7 tells of the siege of the town Bethulia by the Assyrian troops of King Nebuchadnezzar under the military leadership of Holofernes together with local tribes; and it sets the story.  If you have time today or this evening, read the entire story.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

It is fascinating to read about these two groups of men who take into account both the small details and the broad strategies in order to lay out the best plans.  They reconnoiter approaches, locate water sources, assess troop strength, close off escape routes, and store up resources.  Meanwhile, the Israelites watch and pray.  Their leader tells them: Let us wait five days more for the Lord our God, to show his mercy toward us; he will not utterly forsake us.  Still, because the odds were so stacked against them, the Hebrew people of Bethulia mourned.  They saw no hope of deliverance and believed they would all be killed or enslaved.

They were in a desperate place with desperate circumstances, yet they hoped.  And a woman acts to save them.  As we have observed, it is a great story.

As we reflect on this story we arrive at this thought: If we always turned to God at the first moment an army amassed itself against us, and if we would be willing to trust an unlikely agent – such as the widow Judith – we might find ourselves less anxious and more joyful.

Today’s Psalm at Mass is 112 with the repeated antiphon: The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.  One of the stanzas reads: An evil report he shall not fear; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear till he looks down upon his foes.

If we might trust as Judith trusts, if we might steady our hearts to make them steadfast and focused on Christ – the rescuer who rescues all who turn to him – we might find more success and less war.  When we hear evil reports as we do each day when we tune into the news, we would tremble less.  When we hear rumors about family, friends and colleagues, we might wait five days or so and petition God for advice in the meantime.  When we fear that we have gone wrong and have lost our way, we might rely on God’s mercy, knowing that he will not forsake us.

If you have time today to spend with some ancient people who thought they faced extinction and yet were saved, you will be rewarded with a story about a pious widow who saves a town . . . and your heart may move closer to firmness, to justice, to trust in the Lord.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.520. Print.

Written on June 2, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/499.html

Visit A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith at: http://kinghezekiahofjudah2.blogspot.com/2008/06/location-of-judiths-town-of-bethulia.html

For more about this amazing woman’s story, go to Judith – Sublime Faith, Heroic Love at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/judith-sublime-faith-heroic-love/ or use the search the name Judith on this blog. 

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Acts 1:1-3: The Promise

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Promise of Peace: Isaiah 40 – 48

It seems that a half-dozen times or so each year we look at the book of Acts to see how the formation of the church began in those very early days.  At first, the risen Jesus meets with his followers and holds them together with his physical presence.  After his ascension, Jesus holds his church together with the promise of the Father about which they had heard him speak in Luke 24:49, the gift of the Holy Spirit was to come to them on the Feast of the Pentecost.

In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost also called the Feast of Weeks and it is the second of three holy celebrations: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.  Passover, of course, celebrates the Hebrew exodus from slavery to a promised land with Moses as their leader and Yahweh providing providential care.  Tabernacles – also called the Feast of Booths – is a joyful celebration in the fall of the year for the harvest gifts of the threshing floor and the wine press at the end of the season.  Celebrants are required to “dwell in booths,” or tents as a commemoration of their desert pilgrimage and God’s protection during their years of wandering.  (Achetemeier 1088)  Pentecost was a celebration of early or first fruits, the yield from the first harvest of the season.  It is fitting, when we think of this, that the Holy Spirit arrives as a first yielding of many gifts to be received by the followers of Christ.  It is fitting that we reflect on all of this today, the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, two men whose lives were poured out for the formation of Christ’s church.

Paul writes to a disciple, Timothy:  I . . . am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  (2 Timothy 4)  He writes to the Philippians:  Hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.  In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.  (Philippians 2)

When Jesus asks Peter: Who do you say that I am?  Peter replies: You are the Christ, the son of the living God.  (Matthew 16)  Peter writes: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  (1 Peter 2)

The early apostles were present for the first harvest of the church and the work of this reaping is not complete; we continue to labor in this same promise.  Any trials we endure today become tools of our own discipline when we turn our work over to God.  Evidence of fruits from our labor in this vineyard are little miracles that call us to keep faith, that urge us to become one of the living stones in the living temple of Christ.  When we feel ourselves poured out as libations on the altars of our lives, we also know that we are making our exodus to the Promised Land; we too, are precious and chosen children of God; we too, are held by the promise of the Father. 


Image from: http://kenmorealliance.com/617915.ihtml

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1088. Print.

Written on June 29, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on The Promise of Peace in Isaiah, click on the image above or go to: http://kenmorealliance.com/617915.ihtml

For more on the Feast of Booths go to: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14185-tabernacles-feast-ofor http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm

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Matthew 23: Woe

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Shema

Frequently during our Noontime reflecting we have observed how Jesus both promises and warns the world that there is a clear choice before us always: we may choose Beatitude or we may choose Woe.  Jesus also warns us frequently about true and false prophets, the difficulties and gifts we receive from entering into self-knowledge, the presence of evil in the most intimate and holy of places, the importance of praying the Shema in all our actions, and the peace of heart that arrives when we give over everything to the following of God above all else.  Today we look at perhaps the strongest indictment of false leadership present in the whole of scripture in which Jesus – at the height of his success among the people – steps into the comfort zone of church leaders to condemn their collusion in the corruption of God’s beautiful creation.  If we are in doubt as to whom Jesus might be seeing as false when he looks at us today, we have only to read the opening lines to see if we are his target for remediation: Those who preach but do not practice, those who tie up heavy burdens to lay on others’ shoulders but lift no finger to help,  those who perform works to be seen, those who love places of honor at banquets and seats of honor in places of worship, greetings in market places, those who widen their phylacteries and lengthen tassels.   Phylacteries are little black, leather prayer boxes worn on the upper left arm and forehead that carry the Shema prayer we thought about just several days ago.  Tassles are also prescribed in the Shema and they are the blue border or the blue and white fringe or threads at the four corners of the outer garment that would remind practicing Jews to adhere to the Law as prescribed in Numbers 15:38 – with their body, mind, heart and soul. Gospel-followers today wear crosses and medallions, frequent religious places and ceremonies, practice peace and justice in their work and play.  We can put ourselves under the same examination that we give to the scribes and Pharisees we read about today.

Bender Stanislaw: Laying Phylacteries at a Barmitzvah

Hypocrites, blind guides and fools, whitewashed tombs all beautiful outside and sparkling in the bright sun . . . but dark and empty on the inside, full of death and filth.  Jesus proclaims woe on and to the people who stubbornly believe that they are immune from scrutiny.  Jesus calls out to all of us to turn a discerning eye on what we say to see if it matches what we do.  Jesus laments the loss of so much potential in the closing verses of this chapter as he predicts the end of their present life.

When Jesus visits with each of us, he confronts our own hypocrisy and false fronts; yet he also comforts where he finds hurt, he heals where he finds damage, he cures where he finds regret, and he restores where he finds a conversion of heart.  This conversion is evidenced when we ask forgiveness.  It is witnessed by our willingness to accept responsibility for our missteps and our honest attempts to make amends.  This conversion is seen in our openness to what we have thought to be impossible – that we might both change and be changed by the blessed one who comes as an expression of God’s love to and in the world.  We have only to let the Christ enter our lives . . . and then to give our lives over to him.


A re-post from May 29, 2012.

Stanislaw image from: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Rabbi-Tying-the-Phylacteries-to-the-Arm-of-a-Boy-Posters_i4047644_.htm

To read more about the importance of the Shema click The Shema image above or go to: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Torah/The_Shema/the_shema.html

For more information on the The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html

To read The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer/shema.htm

Re-written and posted on October 28, 2009 as a Favorite.

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Daniel 1-6: Tales from the Diaspora (Part II)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Early Christian Martyrs

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

The verses in chapter 3 will reveal something special for us.  Nebuchadnezzar asks, “Who is the God who can deliver you from my hand?”  Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah reply so simply: If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your hand, O king, he will do so; but [even] if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.  

This demonstration of dying to self in love for the Creator is so simple yet so eternal.  Why do we find it difficult to give ourselves over to God when we know that we are here to serve, know and love this God who so loves us that he dies to self for us in the person of Jesus Christ all day every day?  Why do we serve the pagan gods of fame, fashion, fortune, power and control?  Why do we succumb to the gods of addictions to behaviors that are so damaging to self and others?  Why do we preserve self and neglect those to whom we are sent?  These young men speak to us down through the years in both their words and actions when they make their bold statement and step forward to witness to their vocation: Even if their God sees best that they be consumed in the fires of this furnace which is meant to reduce bodies to ash they will not abandon this God.  They will not refuse to witness to this God . . . for they know and understand that this God is greater than all else.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

We find further examples of human fidelity to God from the days of the early Christian Church when we explore the PBS FRONTLINE site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/why/pliny.html   Here we see how Christ’s early followers gain strength from the adversity they experience.  Pliny the Younger and the Emperor Trajan exchange correspondence and agree that some of the Christ followers must be punished yet they are cautious, knowing that this Jesus movement will likely outlast them all.

The fidelity of these early Christians and other martyrs on the site is impressive.  Nothing can make them turn away from God.   As we read we wonder at the human capacity to endure such pain, the human ability to refuse the temptation to seek revenge, and the human spirit that exalts what is good in the face of wickedness.   And so we pray . . .

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

We are God’s works, faithful and true.  Let us act as though we believe in this truth.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

We are God’s art, varied and vibrant.  Let us speak as though we believe this is so.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

We are God’s children, frightened and small.  Let us love one another as the father loves us.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

Amen. 


A re-post from April 18, 2012.

Image from: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/timeline_09.html

For more information on Diaspora, click the image to the right and explore the PBS FRONTLINE site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

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Daniel 1 – 6: Tales from the Diaspora (Part I)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Click this image to follow a link to the PBS FRONTLINE site on the Jewish Diaspora for more about what it means to Christ’s followers

During the Easter Octave this verse of Daniel, and others surrounding it, are recited in thanksgiving for the Easter Miracle.  In this second week of Eastertide let us examine one of the church’s most popular and most powerful prayers.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Over the many months that we have shared Noontimes, we have reflected on this apocalyptic prophecy nearly two dozen times, and about half a dozen of those times have been from The Tales of the Diaspora, the first six chapters of this book.  These chapters have roots in Israel’s wisdom literature and they are pedagogical in nature, the characters providing role models of fidelity to and trust in Yahweh, the one true god and creator of all.  Daniel was also a figure mentioned in Canaanite texts of the fourth century B.C.E. (his name was Dnil) where he is described as a righteous judge and hero.  He is seen as one who communicates with God through angels and understands information about the future of the world.  Because of his virtue, his words and deeds – along with those other Jewish youth held in captivity – these stories remain with us today, and they serve to help us in our own times of trial – our own fiery furnaces and lions’ dens. They were recorded between the years of 167 and 164 B.C.E. (Mays 623-629)

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

As a child, I loved the stories of the four young Jewish boys, Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  I was stunned by the fact that they had to abandon their Jewish names to take on new, foreign ones, Balthazar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I was frightened by the fact that they were not only torn from hearth and home but were also being forced to abandon their God.  It was actually this story which caused me to want to know and understand other languages, realizing that one day I might find myself snatched from all that is familiar to wake up in a daze in foreign territory . . . and I would want to know what these strange people were saying about me and my destiny.  I also remember realizing that it was not the linguistic ability, the intelligence, the strength or the bonds of family or friendship which sustained these young people when they found themselves controlled by pagan foreigners and taken from their temple, their home, their families and community . . . their physical and spiritual places of comfort.  When they were completely separated from the things which most of us cling to in times of crisis and stress, they relied on the one thing which sustained them through the trial of a fiery crematorium and exposure to hungry lions . . . they had Yahweh . . . they had their trust in Yahweh . . . and they had their fidelity to Yahweh.  This alone fed them, rescued them, and restored them to a place of dignity and honor.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .


A re-post from April 17, 2012.

Image from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

Tomorrow we will reflect more on Tales from the DiasporaFor more information on what the Jewish Diaspora is and what it mean to Christians, click on the image above or go to the PBS FRONTLINE site at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 623-629. Print.

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Psalm 96: God of the Universe

Easter Thursday, April 25, 2019

A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

From commentary: “A hymn inviting all humanity to praise the glories of Israel’s God (1-3), who is the sole God (4-6).  To the just ruler of all belongs worship (7-10), even inanimate creation is to offer praise (11-13).  This psalm has numerous verbal and thematic contacts with Isaiah 44-55, as does Psalm 98.  Another version of the Psalm is 1 Chronicles 16, 23-33”. (Senior 712)

During the Easter Octave the entire universe confirms that God is great, God is good.  On this third day of Easter we will want to join our voice with all other voices in creation.   The Psalms give us a special way to praise God and from the earliest days of the Church this pattern of public, daily prayer was established. We read the Book of Acts frequently during Eastertide as it tells us of the passion and awe the disciples felt as they began to understand the inversions in the resurrection story and the implications it had for God’s entire creation.  In these verses we frequently hear that the disciples, inculcated in Jewish life, moved in a cycle of prayer.  For example, we read: Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock prayer. (Acts 3:1

The Psalms played an important part in these prayers and centuries later the Christian Liturgy of the Hours continues to call both clergy and lay with these old patterns.  Today, as we move through the Easter Octave celebrating the miracle of Easter, let us investigate these Psalms from a long-ago time that still have very modern application.  These hymns of sorrow, praise, thanksgiving and petition are formed by ancient people but embody modern hope.  They are songs of acclaim and appeal, great sadness and un-bounding joy.  They are sacred poems traveling through time that together tell the marvelous story of our deliverance at God’s hand, and the limitless love that this God of the Universe has for us.


You may want to take some time today to read more about The Psalms on this blog at: www.thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/psalms-the-praises/, or Acts at:

Image from: http://tourinord.com/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.712. Print.   

For a wonderfully accessible explanation of the Liturgy of the Hours and for a version that has universal appeal, look for the series by Tickle, Phyllis published by Doubleday. 

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2 Maccabees 5:10: Holy Place and Holy People

Friday, April 12, 2019

Image from “Places of the Spirit” published by Lake Placid Institute

But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation.

So many times we get things backwards.  We forget that we become weak in order to be made strong, that we serve in order to lead, and that we die that we may live in Christ.  We have looked at the books of Maccabees many times before and just last spring we spent time with this chapter reflecting on the stark difference between mystery and problem, impatience and trust, pride and humility, anxiety versus openness to God’s awesome power, sedition versus fidelity.  Here is some of what we were thinking.

We need to relax into the mystery of life more.  We need to adapt a humble stance with our Creator and a willingness of heart to do as we are bidden.  We need to immerse ourselves in God who is always with us . . . rather than trying to swim upstream or downstream with him.  We need to move away from sedition, death and the slandering and killing of fellow pilgrims.  We need to move toward the light, toward the mystery . . . and allow it to embrace us.

We can view the mysterious way that God moves in our lives with awe or with skepticism.  We can choose to believe or to disbelieve that Christ overcomes the barrier that death presents to the rest of us.  We can choose to be faithful to our covenant agreement and call, or we can strike out on our own to find another God to worship . . . or we can even choose to worship ourselves and our own ideas.  But none of this will satisfy because we will be making holy places where there is no holiness.  We will be creating holy communions where there are none with whom to commune, for nothing can be made holy without God’s presence.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us several times in the opening chapters do you not know that you are living temples of God, members of the body of the living Christ?  He echoes this on his other letters when he asks us to step away from immorality, from idolatry and to turn to the one true source of life: God the creator, God the redeemer, and God the love that exists in an inscrutable way deep within the mystery of each of us.

Mount Agung, Bali

This is all that we are asked to do . . . yet we so often make life much more complicated than it really is.  We are a holy people who come together when God calls us and thus we make holy places in which the Spirit will abide.  And in so doing we will rise even amidst the worst of circumstances, even above the pillaging of the temple . . .  to be sheltered in God, to live eternally in the Spirit, to be renewed in hope and forged in fidelity . . . to remain of and in Christ.  For we are his holy people . . . and he is our holy place.


A re-post from February 26, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/exhibits/2004/izzy-places/index.html 

To see and read about the top ten sacred mountains, go to National Geographic’s Ten Sacred Mountains page, click on the image above, or go to: http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/books-excerpts/ten-sacred-mountains-text

You may also be interested in Sacred Places of a Lifetime at: http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/coupon.jsp?code=MR35082&URL=%2Fjump.jsp%3FitemID%3D4464%26itemType%3DPRODUCT or Places of the Spirit at: http://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/exhibits/2004/izzy-places/book.html

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