"The solution is to be found through the sanctification of the parents. Become saints and you will have no problems with your children." Father Porphyrios , Wounded By Love

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Theotokos: Her Life in Mosaics



Did you know that in the history and tradition of the Orthodox Church we have more scenes depicted from the life of the Theotokos than anyone else? You might be surprised to learn that there are over 16 different mosaics to teach us about Panagia's life at the Church of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) in Constantinople, Turkey.

This Church was once part of a monastery, but is now Museum, and has one of the best-preserved collections of Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Here are just a few of the scenes depicted:

**A PDF of most of the Mosaics with short descriptions has been posted here on our Scribd Orthodox Group. Please take a look - it is a valuable teaching tool**

1. Joachim's offerings at the Temple
2. Annunciation of Saint Anne (the angel of the Lord announcing to Anne that her prayer for a child has been heard)
3. Meeting of Joachim and Anne
4. Birth of the Virgin Mary
5. First seven steps of the Virgin
6. The Virgin given affection by her parents
7. The Virgin blessed by the priests
8. Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
9. The Virgin receiving bread from an Angel
10. The Virgin receiving purple wool to weave the curtain for the Temple
11. the High Priest Zechariah praying
12. Zechariah calling widowers together to place their staffs on the altar, praying for a sign showing who the Virgin should be entrusted to
13. The Virgin entrusted to Joseph
14. Joseph taking the Virgin to his house
15. Annunciation of the Virgin
16. Joseph departing the Virgin for a trip; when he returns, she is pregnant

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Saint Nicholas of Myra

(Initially posted in 2009)

Here is a small book compiled on the life and miracles of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra. It is my first attempt to extract scenes from "vita" icons of the Church's beloved Saints in order to bring them to life with simple stories for children and teens. I hope this idea can extend into a series, maybe one day even a published collection, to build our libraries with illustrated books for years to come ~ May it be of some small use to you and your families.

A PDF file can be downloaded
from the Scribd.com Orthodox Education Collection here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Christmas Trivia 40 Questions

If you're filling 40 little pockets of an Orthodox advent calendar or looking to count the days of the fast with your children, consider quizzing them with one question a day! Here is my list of 40 Nativity Trivia questions! (If you need the answers, I'll post into a comment.) 1. Hebrew name of the Mother of God? 2. Which Tribe from Jacob's 12 sons does Jesus come from ? (Joseph comes from Judah) 3. City of Christ's birth? 4. Whose staff blossomed and why? 5. Explain the Root of Jesse? (Jesse is Father of King David, lineage of Messiah) 6. King at that time of nativity of Messiah? 7. What does Emmanuel mean? 8. Message of angel to sheperds? 9. What was king's decree at that time? 10. Why was Herod threatened by birth of Messiah? 11. What was the gift from heaven for Christ child? 12 What was gift from wilderness? 13 What was the gift symbolizing Christ as King ? 14. What gift symbolizes Christ as fully man who will be buried in a tomb? 15. What does the fatni (manger) symbolize? 16 Where is your cave for Him to be born? 17. What does the darkness mean according to the Holy Father's commentary? 18. Which gift symbolizes Christ as fully God to be worshipped? 19. Who helped warm Christ at His birth? 20. Why are animals present in the icon? 21. Which prophet tells us a Virgin wil conceive a son? 22. Which book of the Old Testament says a star will rise from the East? 23. What time of day could the 3 Wise men see the star? 24. Who could not see the star? 25. Why were the wise men called wise? 26. What payment did Joseph have to go give in the city of David? 27. How old was Jesus when the Wise Men gave Him their gifts? 28. After Bethlehem where did Jesus live? 29. What place does Christ eventually return to after leaving Egypt? 30. Which two Gospels do we read the birth of Christ in? 31. Why is Christ wrapped in the color white? 32. Why were the sheperds first to hear the message? 33. Who was the midwife who delivered the Infant Christ? 34. What is the Orthodox greeting during the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas)? 35. What did Herod want the Magi to do after they found Christ? 36. What does the word 'incarnation" mean? 37. Finish this quote 'God became _ _ _ so that man could become like _ _ _." 38. Which Church father, bishop and Saint wrote that quote? 39. What do we hope the 40 days of fasting will do for us before Christmas day? 40. What does the vigil represent on Christmas eve?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Christmas Coloring & Symbolism

 
It seems the most common thing families are looking for are Orthodox coloring icons! So here are the ones I have for the Nativity Christmas season. (Potamitis Publishing has others for sale.)




  • Also a few talking points for the icons
  • St John Chrysostom reminds us of the odd behavior of such a star that led the Magi from the east. It appeared in daylight! It acted like no other by coming down from the heavens to practically eye level. It disappeared while in the presence of Herod, and reappeared afterward.

  • Also, the magi themselves were well trained in the behavior of stars - this was their daily work! Traveling far, their ethnicity symbolizes that the Gospel will reach the Gentiles and people of the East. Their gifts are full of meaning - gold for the King of all ages, frankincense for God of all, and myrrh for His three days in the tomb as fully man.

  • Sometimes we ask why is Joseph turned away? The theological answer is often because he shows us he is not the father of Christ, and others say he is deep in thought, contemplating the virgin birth. In various icons, a grim figure is depicted tempting Joseph with harmful doubts, or another younger man walks with them as they travel to Egypt. Just remember to identify Joseph correctly. He was the much older widow with children from his previous wife. His care for Panagia was closer related to that of  fatherly protection than ever as a husband, seeing as a marriage was never consummated between them.

  • Important also for our children to understand -Christ was born more likely in a cave than a barn (I cringe at such incorrect images) The cave and the Mother of God are the offerings from the world, as the hymns proclaim. Light has been born into the darkness!   

  • Everyone offers the newborn Christ a gift! Mankind offers Panagia, or Mary, to be used for God's purpose and His work of salvation. Notice her posture. In some icons she is kneeling with arms crossed to worship her very own son as her God. Yet she is one of us, perfectly human and representative of us all created to offer ourselves fully to God as she did. The wilderness offers the cave as a dwelling place for the Savior. The heavens offer the star. The angels offer their voices of praises and song. Even the animals gather around Christ to offer their own warmth of breath, as heat in the coldness of the cave!
  • The swaddled clothes around Christ signify His burial cloths as well, if you remember, when St Joseph of Arimathea and St Nicodemus wrapped the body of Christ is a white linen cloth for the tomb.

  • The shepherds, lastly, are all of us. The simple, the unlearned, the lost sheep - called from our daily tasks to come and worship the Lord. After such an encounter, one's life can never quite be the same!


Friday, October 20, 2023

Christmas Worksheet

Here is an Orthodox Christian Worksheet and Lesson on the Nativity that includes a bit of theology we often overlook. Although it might be for older ones, I hope it offers details that the younger ones can comprehend as well.

Click here for the PDF Lesson available at the Orthodox Christian Scribd Group.


Wishing you and your families a blessed Nativity ~

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Christmas Bible Verse Craft


  1. God is with us (Matthew 1:23)
  2. All the Earth worships Thee (Psalm 66:4)
  3.  His name shall endure forever (Psalm 72: 17)
  4. He is our God, the God of salvation (Psalm 68:20)
  5. There shall come a Star out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17)
  6. He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21)
  7. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given (Isaiah 9:6)
  8. He said, “Thou art My Son; on this day have I begotten Thee” (Psalm 2:7)
  9. We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him (Matthew 2:2)
  10. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12)
  11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11)
  12. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
  13. The Angels cried out, Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14) 
  14. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
  15.  Amen.

Print these 15 versus from the Bible out on different colors of paper, or at a minimal on green construction paper. Cut them into strips with a paper cutter, trim the lengths, and ask your children or teens to glue them into the Christmas story tree to white or blue paper. If you have younger ones, you could always number the phrases, but even if the order gets rearranged, it still works. Have fun learning holy scripture! To download the PDF file, click here:

Monday, October 9, 2023

Teen Lesson for Christmas - Scavenger Hunt

In response to those of you who asked for more teen resources, here is a lesson that I believe our teens are capable of grasping. Often, we don't give them enough substance - so get ready to challenge them!


Using the text "On the Incarnation" by Saint Athanasios, you can lead your group to a deeper understanding of why God needed to come in what we celebrate as the feast of the Nativity. By drawing out important quotes and asking the right questions, we can essentially tackle the messages of creation, salvation, and theosis with them.

If you so choose,
make a scavenger hunt of these hidden quotes from the lesson plan alone to lead them through the lesson!  Cut in strips, and hide them around your Church - taking them from places like where we enter our spiritual journey (the door) to where we find refreshing drink (the water fountain) to a reflection in the mirror to better see mankind's position to God. Regroup at the end to compile and discuss the quotes by gluing them in order to a larger poster.


I've broken this down into three possible sections for the month of December.
This can be used at a retreat or over three consecutive Sundays.

  • Did God need to become man?  (CREATION)
  • How could God act to save us?  (SALVATION)
  • Why can man now become god or god-like? (THEOSIS)
To read and print this Lesson Plan "On the Incarnation" in a PDF format  click here: or visit http://www.scribd.com/doc/74236030.

If you have feedback, additions, corrections or comments, feel free to send them. As always, my work is in progress with room for improvement. As you teach this lesson, you may find other topics arise which will be helpful to share.

Also, don't forget about the previously posted "WHY CHRISTMAS" worksheet located at this link.

"May it be blessed"

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Root of Jesse Tree: Christmas Activity

The sayings of the prophets are now fulfilled!

Use this study to learn the prophecies of the Old Testament with your children and teenagers. (Download the free printable PDF file here, in color or black/white.) All verses are weaved into the hymns of the Orthodox Church and chanted during the Christmas services. The richness and depth of the season is remarkable!
     Complete this "Root of Jesse Tree" by first gluing the Mother of God in place, and adding a prophet as you study them with the verses below. The tradition of this icon can often be found with an image of Jesse reclining at the bottom of the icon as the root - the Mother of God becomes the "rod" who springs forth the "fruit" who is Christ (2nd century Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, St Ambrose of Milan, and 8th c St Cosmas)

Here are the memory verses:
  • A shoot will come forth from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. ( Isaiah 11:1)
  • Her womb was foreshadowed by the burning bush that was not consumed  (Exodus 3:2)
  • The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: A woman shall compass a man (Jeremiah 31:22)
  •  Lord, the God of Israel has entered through the closed gate and it shall remain shut. (Ezekiel 44:2)
  •  Zion is our mother. a man shall say; and such a man was born in her: and the Most High Himself hath established her. (Psalm 87:5 David)
  • For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Therefore my Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the concealed one shall conceive and bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel (Isa 7:14)

Discuss the symbolism & titles of Mary in the items that each Prophet carries:

Jacob: the Ladder (Genesis 28:12)
King David: the Ark of salvation
Aaron: the Rod/staff that budded fruit
Isaiah:  the Staff/Whip (10:26, 36:6)
Daniel: the Mount (2:35, 2:45)
Gideon: the Rock (Judges 6:20)
Moses: the Burning bush
Soloman: the Veil of the Temple 
Ezekiel: Gate of Life (Ezekiel 44:3) expressed Four Gospels (explained)

Zachariah: the Lampstand (chapter 4)


Read more excellent quotes of the Fathers here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Root_of_Jesse

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Mona Lisa Makeover

Imagine someone walking into the art museum to do this to the Mona Lisa! They'd be arrested for graffiti, at a minimal I'm sure! Imagine the state of shock that Leonardo di Vinci would be in at such altercations to his masterpiece...., as if the way he created her is just not good enough! 

Yet everyday around the world, millions of young girls, college students, middle aged moms, and aging grandmoms apply lipstick, paint their nails, apply haircolor, enhance their body with implants, pierce their ears and endure the pain of getting a tatoo all to look more "beautiful" or just a bit younger. A little "blush" here and there....no harm done right? Besides, isn't it fun to be "girly?" Where's the harm in aiming to look 20 years younger?


Hasn't anyone ever said....you're already perfect...just the way you are! In fact, God likes you BEST without all that stuff! -You are perfect in His eyes! If He wanted our toenails purple, He would have made them that way. True beauty for the Christian is to be clothed in Christ and His Saints. looking like them! Take a look at the icons of our Church. In other words, to imitate Christ in human modesty and dress. If we are women, let us be truly women, with appreciation for our femininity and respect for our bodies. Let us reject the vanity of materialism -  and instead, teach our youth how truly attractive the Christian virtues of patience, humility and chastity are.

Let us adorn ourselves with inner embellishments of the soul, and discover beauty as God created it. Remember, our kids are watching! How will we explain that they don't need mascara, but we do?

ACTIVITY - Before revealing the lesson, pass out clear projector sheets and ask each young person to draw a self portrait of what they are wearing on that exact day. Include logos and t-shirt graphics, jewelry, make-up, hairstyles, hats, etc. Then gather them, and hold them up, one by one in front of an icon of Christ at the same approximate size 8.5x11. Ask your students.....can they see Christ through each person? Does Christ look a bit foolish with earrings? The final message is that we all bear the image and likeness of Christ and must show this to others in our appearance and very importantly, our actions. It is much easier to say we are Christians than it is to BE an Orthodox Christian.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The "Orthodox Kids Journal Project"

NEW: Introducing a free weekly curriculum to create Orthodox Christian Kids Journals about our  faith! Each week, come back to this website and download the handout to print yourselves.

The handouts cover a topic from the Church year including quotes, miracle stories, maps, troparions, icons and Orthodox art.

As we discuss the components of the lesson, students are actively listening while they color, cut, and glue a memorable resource to keep for the rest of their lives! Often, students contribute stories they have heard, or if they have that particular Saints' icon at home, or if they have ever venerated a relic, traveled to that country etc. This method proves to be a wonderful tool to create lasting beauty as students develop a greater understanding for the Orthodox Church year in the midst of open dialogue.

Join with us and share! CLICK HERE

Here are the files currently available to follow the Church year from September to May:

Monday, April 3, 2023

Pascha Basket

If you are looking for ways to keep "Christ" in your celebration of Easter, consider making an Orthodox Pascha Basket instead of the typical egg & candy overload! Each of the following traditional foods has a symbolic and spiritual significance.

We focus on saying "Pascha" which encompasses our spiritual journey
to the Resurrection of Christ, and is our "passage" from the Hebrew "pesche, or passover from death to life." 

 Each year, the Church follows the same sequence of events - and one can't happen without the next. I encourage you not to skip right to the Resurrection without going thru the Cross. Living each component in correct Orthodox theology is truly "Orthobiosi"  

...Christ raising Lazarus, Christ's Entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), Christ's arrival to those anticipating Him (Bridegroom) the Passover (Christ's Mystical Last Supper on Holy Thursday and His washing of the disciples feet) His betrayal by Judas arrest and judgement, the Crucifixion, burial and tomb, all culminating at the glorious Resurrection of our Lord.



FAMILY BASKET INGREDIENTS: 

Many parishes will bless the baskets all together after the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning. Ask your local priest to try this custom!
  • a yeast bread,
  • a bitter herb
  • wine, 
  • cheese, meat, butter, salt, and a red egg. 
  • Sweet bread is always included, leavened with yeast. This is a symbol of the New Covenant; the Jews made unleavened bread, and we, the children of the new covenant, make leavened bread. Kulich is the traditional Russian bread, and Tsourekia is the traditional Greek braided bread. The braided form of this bread is a display of the Trinity  - 3 in 1. 
  • The bitter herb, often horseradish or garlic, serves as a reminder of the first Passover (horseradish is eaten as a traditional part of the original Passover meal) and of the bitter sufferings which Christ endured for our sake. Sometimes the herb is colored red with beets, symbolizing the Blood of Christ. The bitter herb is also to bring to mind the Jews’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, or our 40 days of the fast. 
  • Wine, cheese, and butter are figurative of all the good things of life, and remind us of the earthly gifts that come from God. Meat is included in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover, which has been replaced by Christ, the New Passover and Lamb of God. (slim jims, beef jerky, salami can be fun finger food) 
  • Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are “the salt of the earth.” 
  • The red egg, which we crack,  is likened to the tomb from which Christ arose. This is because of the miracle of new life which comes from the egg, just as Christ miraculously came forth from the tomb, shattering the bonds of sin. Of course, red for His blood shed for us, and the miracle from St Maria Magdalane when the egg in her hand miraculously turned red as she proclaimed "Christ is Risen" to the non-believing Emperor.

Many Orthodox Christians also cover their basket with a Pascha basket cover.

Here and here  are some more links on Pascha Baskets.

Read here for information concerning how the Orthodox Christian tradition of  Pascha baskets got started.http://www.iarelative.com/easter/bcover.htm


Holy Week Kids Orthodox Chart

Download for free and print this helpful lesson in chart format HERE to remind your students about each day of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. The PDF file is filled with icons and a short description that is easily understood to enrich your experience to Pascha!

The second page includes my original Pascha Poem, along with
the Greek text to Xristos Anesti.

Holy Monday- Joseph
Holy Tuesday- Ten Virgins
Holy Weds - Betrayal of Judas
Holy Thurs - Mystical Supper
Holy Friday- Crucifixion
Holy Saturday- Empty Tomb
Holy Sunday - Resurrection of Christ

Join our Orthodox Kids Journal Project. All files are located here.

Wishing you and your families a blessed Pascha 2019!



Saturday, April 1, 2023

Holy Week for Kids

Anyone with kids knows that Holy Week can be a challenging yet extremely rich experience!  Although the night services postpone bed time, we try to remember, it's just for one week, and nothing else quite seems to matter. Yes, the services can be long, so this post is dedicated to the "something special" in each night that makes it all worth it for young and old. Here's our list of things not to miss with your kids and teens ~

Palm Sunday Morning- Find the kids worshiping Christ in this icon and hold your palms proudly like them for the procession. How do we greet a King? Who is our KingRECITE: "Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord"


Palm Sunday Evening - ACTION:Kneel for the Procession of the icon of Christ as the Bridegroom when the priest brings Christ out from the Holy altar for the first time.

Holy Monday- Light a candle in the dark serenity of  this service. ACTION: Bow down to make 3 full prostrations in front of the Bridegroom icon of Christ.

Holy Tuesday- RECITE: Memorize beforehand and listen for the verse "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching" PRACTICE:  handwriting this phrase, or copying / tracing it as a memory verse.

Holy Wednesday/Thursday MorningDraw near to receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ while commemorating His Last Supper and the beginning of this Life-giving Sacrament. Find the "one sided profile of Judas in the icon" which symbolized his two-facedness. Discuss this betrayal with your kids

Holy Wednesday Evening- COUNT: 7 Readings for 7 Candles, Try fasting before receiving Holy Unction from a certain point in the afternoon; often we forget this is a Sacrament of our Church. (Some Priests also wash the children's feet - try this at home for the experience!)

Holy ThursdayTake the chance to bow before, kneel and kiss our Lord on the Cross. TASTE: vinegar with your own kids as the soldier offered Christ on the Cross when He thirsted.

Holy Friday Afternoon - Royal Hours - Witness or participate in the taking down of Christ from the Cross, identify in the icon who was involved (St Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus). Observe a period of silence and identify Christ's white burial cloth. Compare it to the white cloth of His manger at Christmas.

Holy Friday- Chant the memorable melody of the Lamentations, Join the Procession outside the Church, Pass under the Tomb, take home a flower, prepare your red eggs

Holy Saturday Morning - Ring a small bell and throw the bay leaves, save one in your book! Chant the words of the 3 Youths (Shadrach, Meshach and Abendago). Hold hands dancing in a circle as your practice singing this again and again "Praise Ye the Lord and Exalt Him Forever"

Holy Saturday Evening - Experience a great celebration at Midnight - See the Church go dark, and witness the light of Christ illuminating all! Share your light with others - Plan to receive the Holy Eucharist of the Resurrected Christ after midnight, return home to crack your eggs and taste the traditional lamb soup mageritsa. Take the holy fire home to re-light your vigil lamps!

Holy Sunday - Ask to read the Gospel in a different language, which is a tradition that conveys the  "good news" spreading to the whole world.

Bright Week  - Practice saying "Christ is Risen" (click link)  in as many languages as you can learn!

If you parish plans other additional opportunities for the youth, please share! I have witnessed Holy Friday Retreats with activities and lessons, Holy Week Scrap booking , others ask the children and teens to decorate the Epitaphion (Tomb),  in some parishes, girls of innocence and purity dressed in white sprinkle rose petals during the procession with the Tomb,  others show a video from the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem , and an all time favorite, one parish taught the children the hymn for Palm Sunday and the children lined up to create a passage way for the Entrance with the Gospel chanting and waving their palms!

How precious it is to see them involved! Our kids may not be awake, but they can still go home smelling like incense, which in some small way, reminds us of the unseen blessings we all receive just by being in there.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Orthodox Flash Cards

If you and your kids enjoyed the
"Orthodox Alphabet Game"

here is a set of flash cards to
build your vocab.

Some letters proved a bit challenging so I'll graciously
accept other suggestions for "X, Y, and Z!"

For older kids, maybe it's best to
leave off the word on the front

and have them find the correct
word on the back.



Both PDF files have been added
to the Orthodox Education Group
on Scrib.com. They were set up for
standard 3x5 notecards, or you
can print 4 to a letter size page.

For younger kids, I've placed these cards within an
inexpensive photo album to help them turn the pages like a book.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

International Orthodoxy


This is a favorite project of ours and fitting for just after Pascha as the disciples were commanded to..."Go and preach the Gospel to all nations"

As a global Orthodox project, I recorded fellow classmates from an Orthodox seminary chanting "Lord Have Mercy" in their native languages. With a large map, I ask the children to identify the country of origin and language for each track... together we try to learn 10 new languages! You can also quiz them with the handout, to see if they can match up the language with the countries.

Also Click here for an International Vespers Service

(Swahili) Bwana Hurumia

(Albanian) Meshiro o Zot

(Arabic) Yarrub Burham

(Kenyan) Mwanthani Igua Tha

(Greek) Kurie Eleison

(Slavonic/Russian) Ghospodi Pomiliu

(Spanish) Senor Ten Piedad 

(Romanian) Doam Neme Lueshte
(German) Herr, erbarme dich

(English) Lord have mercy

Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Annunciation - God's Calling & Your Vocation

For this year's Feast of the Annunciation, here are a few talking points to discuss with your group of kids and teenagers along with the following FREE worksheets. Discovering their talents and God-given gifts is a honorable exercise that will boost their self-confidence. Every child should be taught that they were created special by our Good and Loving God, who desires for each persont to come to know Him. We are all called to be saints and share in His holiness, so that we can love our God and Our Neighbor. Consider how you can engage your local students in such a search for vocation, and enjoy leanring how the Saints responded to God's calling TO BE HOLY AS HE IS HOLY! :
1- The world would be different if Mary did not answer with faith and obedience 2 - How did God prepare Mary for her role? 3 - Did she have free will to choose her future? 4 - How with faith did she trust God in His purpose, humbly, without doubting? 5- Was she fulfilled in her life with this path?

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