March 2, 2011

Scandalizing By Fasting?

By Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos 
Some have over-interpreted the command of the Lord regarding one's refraining from showing others that we are fasting (c.f. Matt. 6:16-18), and when they are found among others who do not keep the fasts, they also do not fast, even though in their home they fast. "I ate meat", they say, "even though it was Friday, in order that I may not scandalize them!"

Of course, we must be very careful to not scandalize our fellow people, but this scandalizing which we must keep away from is the scandal which comes from violating the Law of God or the commands of the Church. Scandals which come from our keeping the Law of God or the commands of the Church (if in fact such "scandalizing" exists), should leave us completely indifferent!

If there exist (and surely there do) people who are scandalized when we blaspheme, swear, lie, do not keep the fasts, etc. etc., then our offense is doubled: we are offenders for both the sin which we committed and through this the scandalization of our brethren.

But if there exist people who are scandalized because we pray, we confess, we receive the Divine Mysteries, we keep the fasts, etc., let them be scandalized and let them say whatever they want!

We must understand well that it is one thing to expose and another thing to confess. The Christian who finds himself at a table with others which has foods one would eat on Pascha, though it is a fast day, should compose himself calmly and humbly, without pharisaical boasting and bragging, in denying the foods offered. This is not exposing, it is rather the basic consistency towards one's principles, it is a confession of one's character as a submissive child of the Orthodox Church. With this stance he will teach others that they are not keeping good standing with the legislation of the Church. If however this person also eats, he will in fact teach the others that they also can break the commands of the Church. "Since he", others will think, "who attends church often and confesses and communes, also eats, this means that fasting means nothing. We therefore do well also in not fasting."
Translated by John Sanidopoulos.