Sometimes it happens like this: a person tries to keep the fast, but then he falls and feels that he has defiled his whole fast, and that there is nothing left from his feat. In fact, it is far from being like this. God looks at this fast from a different viewpoint. I can explain this to you with one example from my personal experience.
When I was a doctor, I was dealing with one poor Russian family. I did not take any money from them because they just had no money. Once, during Great Lent, when I was fasting especially strictly, trying no to violate any church rules, they invited me for dinner. It turned out that during whole Lent they were saving money to buy a small chicken to treat me. I looked at that chicken and saw the end of my fasting feat in it. Of course, I ate a piece of it. I could not afford myself to offend them.
I went to my spiritual father and told him about the misfortune that had happened to me. I told him that I was fasting almost perfectly during Lent, but then I ate a piece of chicken during the Holy Week. Fr. Athanasios looked at me and said:
– You know what? If God looked at you and saw that you have no sins and that a small piece of chicken could defile you, He would protect you from that. But God looked at you and saw that you were so sinful that no chicken at all can defile you more than that.
I believe that many people can use this example in order not to blindly follow church canons, but be honest people first of all. Sure, I ate a piece of chicken: not as something dirty, but as a gift of human’s love. I remember an episode from the book by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, where he wrote that everything what exists in this world is God’s love. Even the food we eat is the Divine love in edible form.
From the book by Mitropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, “The Works”
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds