"Serbian Orthodoxy is Filled with Warmth, Love, Joy"

Subdeacon Andrei Limberger (Stuttgart/Munich)

Venerable Justin (Popovic) is a disciple of St Nicholas of Serbia, archimandrite and confessor of the Celije Convent in Serbia, a zealous fighter for Orthodoxy in the atheistic time of communism, our contemporary, born on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25 (April 6), 1894 and who died on the same feast day in 1974, and was canonized by the Serbian Church in 2010.

He was one of the main teachers of our Vladyka Metropolitan Mark, with whom such well-known bishops, spiritual fathers and theologians as Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic, Montenegro), Bishop Afanasije (Jevtic, Tvrdoš), Bishop Irinej (Bulovic, Bachkiy) and Schema-Archimandrite Basil (Grolimund, abbot of the monastery in Gailnau, Germany) studied under Abba Justin.

This year, 2024, a number of feasts and anniversaries have been celebrated: the Feast of the Annunciation and the Week of the Veneration of the Cross coincided, as well as the 130th anniversary of St Justin’s birth, the 45th anniversary of his death, and the 10th anniversary of the transfer of his relics. Our Vladyka Mark was invited to the Celije Monastery for this reason. I was honored to accompany him on this journey and I want to share my impressions.

When we arrived at the Celije Monastery on the eve of the feast, we were met by the Abbess of the monastery, Mother Glycerija. In the conversation, Vladyka Mark and the 90-year-old nun (who jokingly calls Vladyka "young man") recalled Fr Justin, the old days, and exchanged news from the Orthodox world.

An interesting moment came: according to the program, we were scheduled to have dinner with His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia on Saturday evening and spend the night in a hotel in the nearby town of Valjevo. But Vladyka Mark arranged rooms for us on the monastery grounds, and decided that we would stay for the all-night vigil, "and if there is time later, we will see if we go to dinner."

A choir of monks and seminarians sang at the vigil, and the atmosphere of the divine services on the Holy Mountain was closely sensed. Vladyka Mark performed the litiya and the polyeleos. The service was attended by many monks and priests from Serbia, as well as monks from the Monastery of Simonopetra in the Holy Mountain and nuns from the Monastery of Ormylia (Greece). The congregants and clergy expressed their joy and gratitude to Vladyka Mark for the opportunity for the bishop's presence at the service.

In the end, we didn't go to Valjevo for dinner, but stayed in Celije. At a dinner with the clergy and people, which took place in a remarkably warm, family atmosphere – in a word, "in the Serbian way" – Vladyka Mark gave a short speech about what is little known about Fr Justin in Europe. He stressed that it is necessary to disseminate his works among the Orthodox and even among the Serbs, which are still not sufficiently well-read about the saint.

On the feast of the Annunciation, April 7, at 7 o'clock in the morning, the relics of the Monk Justin were solemnly transferred from the old church of the Holy Archangels, where they constantly reside, to the main monastery church of St Sava.

Divine Liturgy was officiated by Patriarch Porfirije. Mark, 11 bishops and a large number of priests concelebrated. About 3,000 believers gathered for the celebration. In his sermon, His Holiness emphasized the extraordinary coincidence of the Feast of the Annunciation and the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, saying that the Mother of God at the Annunciation of the Archangel chose a difficult path, renounced her will, crucified it and took upon herself the cross of the birth and upbringing of the God-Man Himself.

On the same day, we visited the nearby monastery of Lelic, where we venerated the relics of St Nicholas (Velimirovic) of Serbia.

In the evening, a meeting of bishops and a large number of guests took place, where His Holiness, Bishop Hesychius of Valjevo and Bishop Irenei Bachki delivered short lectures on St Justin.

Patriarch Porfirije spoke about the great importance of the Celije Monastery for the spiritual morality of Serbian Orthodoxy, calling it, along with the monasteries of the Serbian Patriarchate of Pec, Studenica, Zica and Hilandar, "the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy." The life of St. Justin was also read, as well as excerpts from his sermons - many of which have as their theme the heavy and depraved spirit of the communist and anti-church times.

On Monday, His Eminence once again visited Patriarch Porfirije at his residence in Belgrade, where Bishop Basil of Sremska was also present. The bishops bid goodbye as close friends. All of them have known each other for many years.

Personally, I was incredibly inspired by this trip. The spirit of Serbian Orthodoxy is filled with warmth, love, and joy.

In every word of Abbess Glyceria, one can feel the inspiration of Holy Abba Justin and his great disciples. The trip was filled with meetings with very different--but always joyful and open--people. I sincerely wish every person to visit this wonderful monastery and venerate the relics of St Justin.

Venerable Fr Justin, pray to God for us! Amen.




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