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This is an extensive group of illnesses, having non-psychological sources and tied into a series of genetic, exchangeable and other disturbances. The following basic illnesses of this group stand out: schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, epileptic and elderly psychoses. The illness can be continuous or in attacks, faint or acute, severe or moderate. Typical symptoms of psychoses are: delirium, hallucinations, the disruption of the emotional sphere, disturbed behavior. With time, the intellect is impaired, memory suffers. The person’s personality changes.

A psychological illness is a heavy cross. The secret of its origin and its spiritual meaning cannot as yet be fully determined. My personal thoughts on this are basically these: in the case of psychotic states, the meaning of the suffering lies in the expiation of sins (either of the one who is ill, or of his parents, or of his ancestors). In addition, if this illness appears in childhood and progresses malignantly enough, then the sick person receives the chance for salvation as an innocent victim. The efforts and patience expressed by those near the sufferer will be salutary, if they are borne for Christ’s sake. If the psychosis appears in later years, then it too is given a person for his salvation. For the Lord is absolute Good. The Lord permits some to fall into the infirmity of being possessed, because He knows that the person would use his mind and will to his detriment; others He protects from dire sins. We read in St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians: "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5.) The sufferings of these people should not be relieved solely through pills and injections, but also with prayers for the health of these ailing servants of God. They are in great need of prayers in their behalf, because their spiritual strength is impaired, weakened by the burdens of the illness.

The baptized ailing should be delicately urged to repentance. This should be done between fits or during improvement. It would be good if there would be more religious doctors, nurses, attendants. Then there would be an Orthodox environment, and I am sure that the same medicines would work more effectively. Whenever possible, priests should be invited to the clinic to serve molebens (prayer services) with the blessing of water, and to distribute Orthodox literature. Experience with similar activity already exists. In October 1992, by the mercy of God, the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All of Russia Alexei II anointed a church in honor of the icon of the Holy Mother of God "The Healer" at the NII Clinical Psychiatric Hospital of the Scientific Center for Psychological Health of the Russian Academy of Medicinal Sciences. Priests that perform the spiritual care of the clinic’s patients were practicing doctor-psychiatrists before their pastoral anointment.

Most of psychotic pathology is traditionally considered incurable. This particularly applies to difficult psychoses, degenerative-dystrophic illnesses of the cerebrum, innate forms of mental inferiority and so on. But God’s mercy performs miracles according to people’s faith, and the laws of nature beat a retreat. Let me present several examples.

About five years ago I saw a woman in church with an infant in her arms, the face of which is familiar to any doctor. The diagnosis, as is said in such cases, was written on the girl’s face. It usually sounds like a verdict. Down’s syndrome. This pathological disease arises as a result of genetic disturbances.

The following week I again turned my attention to this girl, and then saw her at services regularly. The child (she was 3 or 4 years old) was always taken to Holy Communion. I lost sight of my "patient" when I had to move to another city because of my job. And so, one summer, four years later, I happened to see her again. The little one was returning with her mother from Vespers. Her face was sweet, smiling, beautiful! There were two snow-white ribbons under her light kerchief. It was impossible to recognize the "doomed invalid" in her. Only an experienced specialist could see the traces of the illness. May the Lord protect you, dear child!

I will present a clear example, which was written up in a small booklet called "When children are ill." Its author is the doctor and priest Father Alexei Grachev. "Two and a half years ago, a 12 year old girl from an orphanage came to me for confession. She could not put two words together, twisted like a top, her abnormal glance, continual grimacing, her whole appearance spoke of her "inferiority." And so, she began to come to confession and take Communion every Sunday.

Within a year, she felt the need to reveal her thoughts (whoever prays and takes Communion often, knows what this is). The girl began to lead such an attentive spiritual life that even those people who consider themselves great believers and churchgoers do not even begin to suspect. She began to read the Jesus prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner"), to fight temptations, forgive offenses, to bear everything. In the course of several months, she learned to read and write, all signs of debilitation passed away, the stamp of spirituality appeared on her face. There was feeling and reason in everything she said or did…" Similar examples are not exceptions, there are multitudes of them…

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