By Archimandrite Nektarios (Mohov)
“A strict fast – well, it is just impossible for a modern person. Having such a stressful daily routine, people are not allowed to eat meat, fish or milk… Even oil is prohibited on some days! The Orthodox who keep the fast deserve a monument to their feat!” I often hear such words from different people. At such moments, I recall how my own family kept the fast and how my children lived it through.
Matushka and I have a large family; we have 8 children. Their childhood fell on the 90s: it seems now that to nourish a family with a lenten food at that time was not as easy as it is today. In fact, I remember a completely different situation in our family.
Once our friends came to us, we sat at the dinner table and then our children began to ask for coconuts. Of course, our guests were surprised, so we explained them what food it was and treated them, too. Since than our friends always asked us to cook that dish.When I came back from the church, our happy children ran towards me. They hugged me and announced solemnly that today their mother has cooked… the coconuts! An appetizing smell of food was in the air, which proclaimed that Matushka had cooked a delicious dinner for us. My wife always invented various dishes made from ordinary products and gave them interesting names. So, we referred to fried potatoes as “coconuts”. Matushka took potatoes, made several notches on them and filled them with spices. Those coconuts tasted just like potato chips. That dish was the favorite one in our family.
There was another episode, when our kids stayed with their friends and were offered ice cream there. The youngest son asked, “How soon will Great Lent end?” They told him that it would end in a week. Then he announced with a serious look that he was not going to “besmear his conscience” when it was just a week before Pascha!
For our children Great Lent was a 49-day-long period of joy. Why? I think it depends on the environment children are growing in and the way this or that important idea is presented to them. We all were children years ago. If a child is brought up in the atmosphere of love and faith, then any fast will not be something difficult for them. Perhaps, the relationships within our family, the love and faith that I and Matushka tried to cultivate, when she was still with us, had a beneficial effect on our children’s future. They all go to church today, they all begin to serve God just like their parents.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds