Question: I heard an opinion that one can even eat meat during Lent due to one’s illness or out of love towards one’s neighbour. Is it correct?
Answer: God isn’t jealous. Where is the source of love? Is it in me or in God? Can I love anyone without God or is my love self-centred and short-lived? These are the questions that you have to ask. Loving God and loving one’s neighbour are tantamount. How can you love other people without God? What did Jesus Christ come into this world for? He came in order to teach us to love. Our goal is to fix the broken connection with God. Thanks to God, one is capable even of loving one’s enemies. It leads to a different level of love: the kind of love that isn’t transient or emotional but inspired by the Lord. It’s God’s grace and love that is mirrored in our hearts and pours out on our neighbours. As far as eating meat is concerned…
When St John of Kronstadt was a child, he fell ill. His father said that he’d rather die than eat meat. That was how rigorously people observed the fast, how they followed church regulations and how they trusted God. Not everyone has achieved this level of faith. Presently, there are many people who ask for a priest’s blessing to eat non-lenten foods because their doctors told them so. Will a priest oppose doctors’ advice? If a person asks for this blessing in advance and is convinced that he cannot endure without non-lenten food — if he does not rely on God completely — the priest will bless him to fast less stringently. It seems to me that the meat-eating issue is purely abstract, detached from life. What does a dying person need meat for? He may need some water, of course. If only that meat could bring the dying person back to life, it would be fine for him to eat it. However, if that person is a devout Christian and relies on God to such an extent that he would not break his fast no matter what, then he that is able to receive it, let him receive it (cf. Matthew 19: 12)!
Alas, there are few such people nowadays. When an individual starts worrying and hesitating, it’s worse than if he ate some meat and forgot about it. You’ve got to look at the given person and examine the situation trying to find out the lesser evil. You can make so many mistakes by being careless. Things can be letter-perfect according to the law, but they are not okay by the spirit of the law. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Cf. Psalm 51: 17). Let us learn to serve God and to honour the fast. May our fast consist not only of abstaining from meat and dairy but also from sinful feelings, the vanity and negligence, which assail us not only through food but also through what we see and hear.