Maica Siluana - Seminar dedicat femeii ortodoxe, la Mănăstirea Horaiţa, septembrie 2009
The notes from the talks of Mother Siluana, by Roberta Sardell:
Topic: Reflections on two Eves: the first-created and the New
Sometimes we ask, “Why can’t I make a new beginning?” And the answer might come back, “Am I ready?” The human is the only creation which is always growing, even into eternity. The Human is perfected when we see Christ. But even then we are not finished. Always we need to think of this process of growing so that we have hope. If I make some major decision but cannot fulfill it, I know and must remember that this is not the end. The old Eve, when she fell, was broken, as was Adam. I am a human being, even though a new one in Christ. I am broken in mind, sentiments, and wishes. The first work of God is to heal my brokenness. My favorite book of the Old Testament is Hosea. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute and uses this as an example of Israel’s unfaithfulness. I am worse than that prostitute, who was only doing her job. I am very far from the heart’s wish, “God clean me.” I say, “No, I’ll work at it, I’ll clean up before coming to you.” But the more we work, the harder we fall, for this work is impossible. We need to start from the beginning, which is “God clean me, heal me.” And thus I give my whole life to Him. And then the next day I am selfish about my worldly goods. Even though I am broken, I want something else, something other than God. Though I put on my automatic pilot to smile, I hear a voice coming from within. Is it Satan? Yes, no. It is me also. With all that we have learned, we are cursed. Education is attached to our brain and causes us to act automatically. If my mother said, “You can’t do that,” I can’t. The child learns what the parent does and gets its understanding of life from such instructions as “Shut up!” If mother brightens up when I smile at the same time she does, I learn to control her by my smile. Each child has a method of surviving, and this is all in our subconscious level. We only remember consciously what fills our immediate needs. When we make decisions whether to smoke or drink, for example, that is a small thing compared to the mass in the subconscious. For the old Eve (the pre-Christ person), the sub-conscious is reality embodied in me, dictating to me how to behave. But as a Christian, when slapped across the face, if I have time to consider, I’ll offer the other cheek. If I don’t have time, I’ll slap. One is the small new learning, the other from our store of the subconscious. In moments of crisis or stress, all education disappears. A woman well dressed, cultured, is on a bus. Someone falls into her, tousling her hair. She begins to speak in a vulgar way.
Why do I have need of God? He obligates us, allows us in all our relationships to become what He intends us to be. I learn from my parents good and bad, especially bad if they have not been changed through faith. I must give myself, the whole person, to God. I have to explain to God why I am lying, crying, full of vices, etc. Each of us has to offer the “Person within Us” to God, give Him that which has been given throughout the generations. There is no other way to salvation.
If I confess what has been passed to me from the generations, God will forgive and remove the burden. The power of God is so big (great) that God can unite us even when we are fallen, otherwise God could not have made the child vulnerable. The child cannot change himself to be responsible. In a meeting of teens, good and bad, one boy said to me, “You want me to become like the good ones, but I can’t. If my father is a thief, how do I go home and renounce this? What would my father do with me if I didn’t join him?” We must renounce our vices. It is true that the more I say, “I’ll never do it like my mother,” the more I do as she did.
I like the New Eve, the Bride of Christ. This new person must let go of the mother and father within us, not in the physical sense but in the values. I have to reach inside and try to get rid of these parts of me. And the way to heal ourselves is that we offer one by one these parts to God for change and modification. The sin is not to steal the watermelon but to make the choice. A fever is a sign that I am sick. When I am sick inside, with the help of God, I can change my patterns. The Fathers were able to do this, but we are not like them. Now God helps us through other people, people with different names than in the church, sometimes with names such as psychiatrist. The Fathers say that our soul is like a watermelon in water; it bobs, showing what is above (the conscious), but below is much more (the subconscious). When you offer to God what is above, the subconscious bobs higher into view. So keep offering more and more to God. The saints go through this process so much that they have nothing in their subconscious. So, as you see, you can’t change completely overnight. You must take small steps, such as a commitment to pray five minutes more a day.
We want to embody Christ, put Him in us. Why do we say so often, “Lord, have mercy”? Why do we take the Eucharist so often? It is so this will become a part of our nature, not the mind working but the recognition of sin and the choice for good without thinking. No one is concerned about our becoming accustomed to Satan through the T.V. and other vices of society, but they worry that we take communion too frequently. It is needful!
This process is not easy but requires concentration and work. There is a Romanian saying, “God gives, but He doesn’t put it in our bag.” We need to work at it. It is also said that every problem can be solved 1) alone or 2) with God, or 3) with Satan.
Topic: Leadership…response to the retreat participants not liking to be called to be leaders.
Don’t be lead by feeling. We in Romania don’t have any feminine feel for “leader.” We understand better “boss” or “coordinator” or “big one.” Don’t react to the word but find out how a leader should be.
We see women as slaves, cooks, mothers, but if we are humble, we don’t grimace at the word “leader.” We have fear, but when we know to follow Christ, we do not worry about the word “leader” but instead learn what we are called to do.
Our fears give rise to emotional reactions.
Topic: Prayer and Mental Health
True God, Christ, prayed. He prayed to teach us to pray. God enters us as energy. Prayer is food for the spirit, just as we cannot maintain life without physical food, we cannot maintain spirit without prayer. Personal prayer gives us two things: 1) food, and 2) breath.
Some stress the dichotomy between Martha and Mary. There is a need for both. St. Maximos the Confessor says, “Do not separate the work from the contemplation, the act from the vision of God.” I can see an apple as an apple on the tree or as a declaration of God to me. Then I think, “What is the good of the apple without me to taste it…and the expression of God’s love in making it as food?” This becomes contemplation. I continue, “How much faith God has to give me this blessing!” Action and thought; the physical world and the spiritual.
Why is food at a monastery always better? A monk or nun (even a slothful one) prays over the food. At home we throw it in the pot. Every movement in our life should be a liturgy, a working together to thank God. We return bread and wine to Him, He transforms it and gives it back through the priest who repeats the words of Christ in the Holy Scripture. What we do in our daily lives should use the same model. I am angry. I envy. I feel helpless. Go to His Word, “Be angry but do not sin.” Give all that is in us to Him, praying for God to transform us. Do not concentrate on proficiency or performance but put off your “self” and ask for help. Pray three times a day in the same way. You can pray wherever you are, even in the bathroom (did not God create us with bodily functions?) if you do so with dignity and sincerity of seeking Him.
We have so many thoughts. Like a child tugging at your skirt, if you ignore them, they become more insistent. But let go of judgment, do not comment on them.
Silence is in your mind, not in the nave. There is, says St. John of Damascus, a circle of connection between the material and spiritual world. We pray in Truth (for Christ said that He was the Truth) and Spirit. Ones who love each other can be silent, can share a look in silence. There is no need to speak.
First, however, we should hear our prayer words spoken by us; hearing and speech unite. Try to gather the two to be a carriage, a carriage to God. We need attention in the mind before we move to the heart. The first sign that we meet God is a breaking of the heart. We say, “I’m helpless,” not “I can’t do (whatever) because of what my mother did.,” but put off the old self. I try to make myself a victim, but I must take responsibility for myself, for my own helplessness. This breaking is a very short moment of pain because then we come to joy and tears as we recognize who we are.
The Holy Spirit is for us. God is of our nous. This is not just for the twelve disciples or the priests but for each one of us. Do not comfort yourself that you cry, that you recognize that you are a sinner. Allow the pain of the breaking. Do not block the way of the Holy Spirit. This is difficult, but life without God is worse. When you are alone, you run from God when instead you should look for Him.
There are things of Mystery that should not be said when in a spirit of pride or frivolity. These only inform Satan. Here in church we are covered and can share some of these deep experiences, but otherwise we need to hold some things in ourselves. We need to share only when out of love and to benefit of another’s soul. We pray not for someone’s needs (which we aren’t really aware of and should not ask details of), but for their salvation.
Do not question God without listening to the answer. At times you will not have the capability to receive. Give it time. Humans have two hemispheres, the right which intuits and says “aha,” and the left which takes information and does not let you have peace until it makes logic of the right hemisphere. God gave us both sides. The Holy Spirit can help us put aside and consider all things. The right hemisphere has many black spots, traumas, and is more vulnerable to the demonic. In the world today there is much chemical imbalance, causing some to choose to live in violence, craziness or physical illness. A person in despair does not believe in anything; this often occurs in a generation that is concerned with material things. Psychosis equals a lack of meaning of life. You just need an ear that listens, a heart that prays.
You must know the criminal within yourself in order not to judge another. I need to love the one in front of me while hating the sin. Seeing a naked woman in a pornographic position, we can be horrified or curious or have pain for the woman. According to how we see our own sexuality is how we look at porn. If we look at someone whose guts are on the train track, what do we see or feel—compassion—and then call an ambulance. Compare this with the naked lady. She has been hit by a train.
We have a psychological need to judge so that we feel better about ourselves. We need someone to tell us that we are good. If no one tells, we tell ourselves by judging. It is true that we are not good; only God is good within us. So we need to ask for God to be in our whole body and blood.
Guilt is not in wishes or thoughts of sinning, but only in what you do with them. [There was a story here that I did not take down…my notes just say “child/whore.” ] On the other hand, I can reach a mountain, but if I don’t have the thought, the motivation to climb, I can’t. We are stopped by fears and thoughts and the subconscious from the past. Moving on requires forgiveness. We need to tell someone so that we can be forgiven. And we must forgive to be forgiven.
A child who is abused is told not to tell. So the child abuses himself, does not tell, refuses to remember. He avoids the immediate consequences of the present, being convinced that the mother, the police, no one will believe. Schizophrenia can develop. A schizophrenic can be healed with the right love, responsibility, and psychiatry. Schizophrenia is a symptom of the family, but this person must be helped to become responsible for himself.
A part from a few, the mentally ill are not violent. If I show no fear, a mentally ill person does not hurt me. He can lead me into the temptation of acting crazy, but if my trust is in God, I can joke with him over his crazy behavior, “Can you do it again?”
We are One in Christ because we are different, because we need each other to be a whole. Two become married so one will help the other. We are not to think exactly alike. We might affect so much change in our husband that we’d ask, “Why aren’t you the man I married?” We are not meant to be identical. Each person needs time to be alone. Being One is not to erase differences but to bring salvation through the love relationship of husband-wife-Trinity. We do not think about how we are original, but with God we see how we are unique, how He created us to be.
There are moments when a person hurts us; it is because we had expectations. If I talk about behavior, not about being, I both judge my husband and criticize his mother. Instead tell how you feel when he calls you “Stupid!”
We use our more aggressive side for defense or for growth, but we have other ways to grow. Use that self-defense energy in reading or cleaning or praying.
Topic: Salvation of others
What kind of god is this who does not give salvation to the Buddhists? We are to pray for them, love them. Remember in moments of hopelessness that God made me—and I am not “normal.” We pray for someone but know that He is God of all, and we do not have to pray Him into someone’s life.
Fundaţia „Solidaritate şi Speranţă“ a Mitropoliei Moldovei şi Bucovinei, în parteneriat cu Programul „Sfântul Dimitrie“, din cadrul Asociaţiei filantropice medical-creştine „Christiana“ din Cluj-Napoca, şi Centrul de formare şi consiliere „Sfinţii Arhangheli“ a Mitropoliei Moldovei şi Bucovinei, a organizat la Mănăstirea Horaiţa, din judeţul Neamţ, în perioada 24-26 septembrie 2009, seminarul „Împărtăşindu-ne experienţa, puterea şi speranţa - femeia ortodoxă în societate“, informează cotidianul „Ziarul Lumina”. Scopul întâlnirii a fost nevoia de cunoaştere şi apropiere a femeilor ortodoxe slujitoare familiei şi Bisericii.
Desfăşurată cu binecuvântarea Înalt Preasfinţitului Părinte Teofan, Arhiepiscopul Iaşilor şi Mitropolitul Moldovei şi Bucovinei, acţiunea a fost iniţiată de Antoneta Negru, manager de proiect în cadrul Centrului „Sfântul Nicolae“ al Fundaţiei „Solidaritate şi Speranţă“, şi de pr. Iulian Negru, director executiv în cadrul Fundaţiei „Solidaritate şi Speranţă“. Programul seminarului a început joi, 24 septembrie, la Mănăstirea Horaiţa, cu o scurtă prezentare a participanţilor şi a obiectivelor propuse de iniţiatori. Vineri dimineaţă, după slujba Sfintei Liturghii, a avut loc dezbaterea cu tema „Bogăţia Ortodoxiei“, la care au participat cele 15 femei ortodoxe înscrise în programul seminarului, urmând ca, după-amiază, să aibă loc comunicarea cu titlul „O viaţă spirituală echilibrată într-o lume modernă“. Înainte de rugăciunea de seară, maica Siluana Vlad, stareţa Mănăstirii „Sfântul Siluan Athonitul“ şi coordonatoarea Centrului de formare şi consiliere „Sfinţii Arhangheli“, a ţinut un cuvânt de folos. Sâmbătă, în ultima zi a seminarului, au avut loc două sesiuni de comunicări cu titlul „Icoana lui Hristos - calea lui Hristos şi calea mea“ şi „Femeia ortodoxă ca lider“, susţinute, la fel ca în ziua precedentă, de Emily Rakes, Roberta Sardell şi Margo Kelly, misionare în cadrul Centrului Misionar Creştin-Ortodox (CMCO) din SUA.„Acest seminar s-a dorit a fi o retragere în linişte şi simplitate, o cunoaştere reciprocă, dar mai ales o regăsire a eului spiritual. Ne-am dat seama că avem probleme comune, la care am încercat să găsim soluţii. Au fost momente de rugăciune în comun, de comunicare şi comuniune“, a declarat Antoneta Negru, coordonatoarea proiectului.
Femeile ortodoxe care au luat parte la acest seminar, majoritatea soţii de preot, s-au arătat încântate de faptul că au reuşit să se cunoască mai bine şi să mărturisească din experienţele proprii frământările sau problemele cu care se confruntă. „Am trăit clipe unice încărcate de învăţătura creştin-ortodoxă şi de bucuria împărtăşirii experienţei personale cu femei ortodoxe practicante şi trăitoare. Bucuria a fost cu atât mai mare cu cât a fost în mijlocul nostru maica Siluana Vlad şi invitatele din SUA, care ne-au ajutat să conştientizăm faptul că noi, femeile ortodoxe, suntem o forţă care poate întoarce societatea contemporană, prin rugăciune şi exemplu propriu, la izvorul seninătăţii şi al bucuriei în Hristos, ajutând-o să-şi regăsească echilibrul printr-o viaţă spirituală bogată“, a declarat Diana Cârcu, directorul Grădiniţei „Buna Vestire“ din Iaşi, a Mitropoliei Moldovei şi Bucovinei. „Acest seminar a însemnat şansa şi bucuria de a întâlni oameni care şi-au împartăşit frământările, bucuriile şi tristeţile, toate raportate la nevoia adâncă a sufletului de a merge şi de a nu se abate de la calea care duce spre Hristos. Seminarul a însemnat emoţia de a vedea oameni care au trecut prin evenimente dureroase, dar care nu şi-au pierdut dragostea şi puterea de a mărturisi că fără Dumnezeu nu suntem nimic şi nu putem face nimic“, a mărturisit Mihaela Dîmbu, asistent educaţional în cadrul Grădiniţei „Buna Vestire“.
Cristina Sturzu, editor la „Ziarul Lumina“, a menţionat: „M-a bucurat mult participarea la această întâlnire, sper să fie prima dintr-un şir de astfel de acţiuni pe care le vom desfăşura ulterior, iar pe viitor, ca şi soţii de preot, să creăm mici puncte de întâlnire pentru femeile credincioase care au nevoie de această comuniune în duh în parohiile din care facem parte“