I explain (inadequately) to my non-Christian friends that the fasting rules of the Church are not like laws which must be obeyed for us to be accepted by an unwilling God, rather they are like the training regime that a world class athlete must follow if he wants to succeed. They are not the same as success by any means, but they are what must be undertaken in the normal run of things if we want to have a hope of succeeding.
Slava Isusu Christu!
I think this is a wonderful analogy, Peter. My girlfriend's mother, born and bred Italian Catholic of the old school, was shocked when she found out I was fasting from meat during the Philipovka. "Why are you doing that? You don't have to, you know. We only have to abstain from meat during Lent."
She was nearly beside herself in confusion when I informed her that I fast from meat and dairy during Great Lent, and from meat on Fridays (and Wednesdays when I remember it's a Wednesday!). I explained to her that fasting is a means to an end, and not an end itself. That was the intent of the relaxing of the fasts in the Latin Church, to break away from a legalistic way of looking at fasting, but, of course, it all went overboard and hardly anyone fasts at all anymore. But I digress...
This is the same woman who projects a rather strong "holier-than-thou" complex, yet went to Communion for the first time in two years a couple weeks ago.
I so love those Italian mothers!