By Mary Sayad

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  • ASH WEDNESDAY - MARCH 5, 2003
    MARY SAYAD

    Reality check: "Remember man that thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return." Today, last year's palms are burned and the ashes are rubbed into our foreheads to remind us of our mortality.

    Lent is a time of renewal as well as a time of fast and abstinence. Christians around the world are expected to fast and abstain from meat for forty days. Many years ago, besides refraining from meat and meat broth, Christians were expected to eliminate all forms of dairy products.

    I recall my grandparents describing how they would prepare their pots and pans for Lent. Before Lent, they would take their utensils to a coppersmith to have them thoroughly cleaned and relined so that no meat or dairy (eggs, butter, milk) residue remained in these pots and pans. Their Lenten meals were prepared in oil and/or water. It was a somber time of the year when did not have parties or attend any form of entertainment.

    Even today, Christens in the Middle Eastern rites, as in the Catholic Byzantine Melkite Church, fast from food and drink from midnight until noon. Although it is no longer required to have their utensils professionally cleaned, many Middle Eastern Christians refrain from all dairy products for the entire forty days, including Sundays. Their Lent starts on Monday preceding Ash Wednesday.

    Jesus Christ fasted in the desert for forty days and he also prayed unceasingly to His Heavenly Father. During this time in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by the Devil. But through prayer, He overcame temptation. When we emulate Jesus by fasting, praying, and reflecting upon Jesus' sufferings, we too will be given the strength to resist the temptation of sin.

    Because of a variety of medical conditions, some people are unable to fast and abstain. This should not be a deterrent from performing good works, i.e. visiting the sick, helping the elderly or shut-ins and offering alms to the poor and homeless. In addition, they can also resist eating certain foods that are not necessary in their diet. Desserts, candies, cigarettes of favorite meals may be eliminated during the Lenten season. Self-denial builds spiritual strength and leads us to spiritual wisdom. We should perform our deeds and sacrifices willingly with humility and repentance.

    Lent is also a time of reflection. It allows us a window of opportunity to acknowledge our spiritual weaknesses, resolve conflicts and dismantle weak habits. By following these guidelines, like Jesus, we will be examples of love and triumph over adversity.

    Folks, dust off your Holy Bible and make a sincere effort to understand the word of God. Today's Standard Bible is easy reading and there's something for everyone. Christians are bombarded by a variety of distractions that are designed to weaken Christian morality. When we are well informed through the word of God, we are better able to defend and preserve the integrity of our Christianity.

    Beloved friends, Our Blessed Mother wishes you to get acquainted with the Bible and Her Son. She is a lover of mankind and like your mother and mine wishes the best for us. Let us graciously be attentive to her advice and relive her life and Jesus' life through the rosary.