Solemn ceremony in honor of the jubilees of Venerable Justin of Ćelije

Published On: 19/05/2024

Abba Justin taught us faith, prayer, and love.

The Venerable Abba Justin preached long ago in 1966, during the time of godless communism: “Saint Sava was crucified on Belgrade’s Terazije square, on the main square, at the main crossroads, at the main roads and the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa; behold, the Serbians raised a cross and crucified Saint Sava on it. And he, sad and full of love for his unfortunate descendants, cried out from the cross: Lord, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And this year, 2024, on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, Saint Sava’s prayers were answered, and the Serbians gave praise to the Risen Lord and to the same great saint, Saint Justin of Ćelije, on the same Terazije square in Belgrade.

The grand hall of the Terazije Theater, its loges, and galleries were filled to the brim tonight with both elderly and youngsters. The Hierarchs from the homeland led by the Serbian Patriarch, representatives of state authorities, important cultural and scholarly institutions, students, and pupils gathered in the capital of all Serbians to solemnly mark the 130thanniversary of the birth, 45th anniversary of the repose, and 10th anniversary of the transfer of the relics of our Venerable Father Justin of Ćelije. The audience even sat on the floor between the rows of seats, and unfortunately, many interested people remained outside the theater.

The solemn ceremony left no one indifferent. In the dramatic part, intertwined with very impressive video segments, the figure of Saint Abba Justin was more than successfully brought to life by the dramatic artist Andrej Šepetkovski. “The goal of human life and its unceasing aspiration should be the realization of the God-Man Christ within oneself. Christ is the answer to all of man’s questions. After Christ’s coming, the heavens have remained perpetually open, and a constant connection between God and man has been established. Man is the image of God, and the humankind is the iconostasis of God…” These Abba’s words once again touched the hearts of all present.

Through the character of the well-known Dr. Vladeta Jerotić, one of a host of distinguished intellectuals, Hierarchs, scholars, and artists whose lives the Venerable Justin of Ćelije immeasurably influenced, and convincingly portrayed by dramatic artist Đorđe Kreća, Abba’s wondrous life filled with feat, suffering, and unsurpassed theological inspiration in modern times was narrated.

A special emotion and spiritual message were carried by the character of a nun, performed by dramatic artist Milena Jakšić, inspired by the famous abbesses of Ćelije, Sara and Glikerija, Abbas’s companions in asceticism and prayer, love and devotion, wisdom and courage, philanthropy, and the love of God.

Naturally, tonight’s ceremony could not pass without the participation of pupils from the Belgrade Theological Seminary of Saint Sava, Abba’s alma mater, whose choir, led by Professor Branko Tadić, along with soprano Katarina Božić, with her beautiful voice and very strong sense of spiritual music, participated in the most beautiful scenes of the solemn ceremony.

The crown of tonight’s ceremony was the address by His Grace Bishop of Bačka kyr Irinej about his spiritual father, the great servant of God from the Serbian people and one of the greatest Orthodox theologians of contemporary times. “For me, of course, as a theology student at that time, his theology was particularly interesting, but also his prayerful character, his character as a liturgist, and his character as a priest. These two dimensions in his personality were inseparably united; they were a living illustration of the well-known theological truth that the rule of prayer, the Eucharistic and liturgical rule, lex orandi, represents the source and inspiration for the rule of faith, for lex credendi. Indeed, his theology was the fruit of his living liturgical encounter with the Living God-Man Christ. He never, I am convinced, absolutely never theologized merely theoretically, bookishly, based on something he had learned mechanically, but always precisely from that deep inner experience. Thus, it can rightfully be said that his theology was experiential, lived, and grace-filled theology that springs from encounter and communion with God, or even, vision of God,” said Bishop Irinej.

The Bishop particularly emphasized that the Lives of the Saints are one of the supreme manifestations of Orthodox theology. “Saint Justin did not hesitate, when he was already a renowned professor of dogmatics, to dedicate seventeen years to translating the Lives of the Saints, to translate them all and publish them in twelve volumes. And not only that, but to reference the Lives of the Saints in his theological works, something theologians before him did not do,” emphasized Bishop Irinej, who concluded his address about his teacher with the words spoken that day in the Church of Saint Sava by Patriarch Porfirije: “Abba Justin taught us faith, prayer, and love.”