FOREWORD BY CORINA GHEORGHIU
MOTHER SILUANA, A WOMAN OF GOD IN A GODLESS WORLD
Our world seems to be out of its mind today, scattered by infinite desires splitting the senses, fragmenting the mind, and filling our bodies with a frenzy of sensations and emotions that most of us neither understand nor know how to handle. Many of us end up stuck in impossible struggles, grasping for the latest “recipe” for the happiness we are told we deserve and should not live without. Some lose themselves in sex and drugs and others in busyness. Some turn their back on the Church, and some become utterly indifferent. Some blame the Church for the sins of their parents, priests, and ancestors, while others take refuge in legalism. Not many seem to follow the middle way of discernment and love so much cherished by the Philokalic Fathers. It is not easy to see past the new “be yourself; do whatever you want,” and into the old tradition of the Church without being considered “outdated” or “not spiritual enough.” It is even more difficult to be an Orthodox Christian in a non-Orthodox country. Not many find their way out of the hypnotic illusion of individuality and into the “Way, the Truth of Life”(John 14:6). Be it the results of Communism in Romania, individualism in the U.S., or the pandemic in the whole world, the gap between generations seems to grow deeper by the year – parents don’t understand their children, and children don’t understand their parents. There are abundant resources, both Christian and secular, to validate each generation’s point of view, keeping each generation standing above its own precipice without a bridge extending from one side to the other.
Most of us would agree that we are at a loss—we do not have enough information and guidance to build the bridge of forgiveness and reconciliation. Even if we already know that the best approach, as the Fathers tell us, is to start by changing ourselves and not by striving to change others, we may not have the courage to look at the gaps in our understanding without a guide. We all need a guide.
Imagine you found the guide; someone who gathered the rich inheritance of the Bible and the Fathers, distilled it, presented it in the language of your time, and dropped it in your inbox, answering your most difficult-to-articulate question. Someone telling you how to start on the Way. Someone who is not telling you what you should do (the “should” that you already know but have still struggled with for years), and instead teaches you how to: how to embark on the way, and how to be – daily, moment by moment?
This book is such a guide – conversations with young people, some more articulate than others, some deeper than others, all reflecting a search for the true good life God promised us.
Here, Mother Siluana gives answers for the soul. The eyes of her heart see the depth beyond the wounds and scars of the inquirers. As a good mother mirrors her children’s not-yet-developed being, Mother Siluana sheds light onto the hidden Image of God in each person, bringing forth their dormant aliveness. As a mother feeds her children with developmentally appropriate foods, Mother Siluana nourishes each of her spiritual children with words of love—witty, humorous, and straightforward. Her “recipe” brings strength and renewal, but only if she is asked. In this book, young people dare to ask because they trust her care and honesty. Never dismissed with empty words, they keep asking and asking. Crumbs from the Lord’s table, her words become a “recipe” for each and everyone, always the same, yet always different, filling the “measure” of each “vessel” to its brim. This is the “recipe”: living life as a continuous liturgy, offering everything, “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, especially the ugly. This is the “solution” for all tiresome problems, their transformation, and regeneration to full Life.
The how-to steps, according to mother Siluana, are:
- “To receive all the events of your life as places to meet the Lord and to receive them as if from the Holy Chalice.”
- To assume all your inner experiences (pain, sorrows, desires, thoughts, emotions, sensations, habits, etc)
- To offer them all to the Lord. As we offer the prosphora (bread) and wine on the altar, to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ, so we will offer our whole life, exchanging it for His grace. We give pain, and we receive grace.
“Let us receive the signal of pain as a bell that calls us to the liturgy of life in Christ, and let us see that He gives us His Holy Spirit Who makes everything new! This is not idle talk; these are words that lead us to Life!” (Mother Siluana)
Each question has something new for you, each with its own light; a glimpse into the past, a missing piece of the puzzle, a glimmer of hope, and some pain, too
As you may be able to tell, this book is not only for young people. Some of us find clarity later in life. Especially the deeply wounded and those who did not grow up with God as Love, but God as Chastiser, or with no God at all.
I am one of them. I discovered God when I was 24. I had great spiritual fathers, and although I was always interested in healing in the church, regularly taking Confession and Holy Communion, I still had no clarity. Later, I benefited from psychotherapy, and I joined its ranks, becoming a psychologist myself, and trying to make sense of my life through the best sciences I could lay my hands on. And still, my way felt twisted and wobbly…until six years ago, when I discovered the author of this book, Mother Siluana, a nun, a gifted speaker, a highly educated woman, science-informed, trauma-informed, and above all a woman of God, filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, despite a difficult life and long struggle with cancer.
So, it is never too late. These conversations are for all of us and all parts of us who at some age or another, for known and unknown reasons, missed some of the sensible guidance and consistent love we needed at that time. Because only the God of love can restore our souls to health. Today is a new day and a new beginning for you, child of Love.
August 15, 2023
Dormition of the Theotokos