The Venerable Justin of Ćelije (aka Justin Popović; in Cyrillic Serbian, Јустин Поповић) (1894-1979) was a theologian, a champion, a writer, a critic of the pragmatic church life, a philosopher, and archimandrite of the Monastery Ćelije, near Valjevo. He was formally glorified as saint by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church on May 2, 2010, and commemorated on June 1 each year.
Saint Justin was born to pious and God-fearing parents, Proto Spyridon and Protinica Anastasia Popović, in Vranje, South Serbia, on the Feast of Annunciation, March 25, 1894 (April 7 by the New Calendar). At baptism, he was given the name Blagoje, after the Feast of the Annunciation (Blagovest means Annunciation or Good News). He was born into a priestly family, as seven previous generations of the Popovices (Popović in Serbian actually means "family or a son of a priest") were headed by priests.
Blagoje Popović completed the nine-years' studies at the Theological Faculty St. Sava in Belgrade in 1914. In the early twentieth century the School of St. Sava in Belgrade was renowned throughout the Orthodox world as a holy place of extreme asceticism as well as of a high quality of scholarship. Some of the well-known professors included the rector, Fr. Domentian; Professor Fr. Dositej, later a martyr; and Dr. Atanasije Popović ; and the great ecclesiastical composer, Stevan Mokranjac. Yet one professor stood head and shoulders above the rest: the then Hieromonk Nikolai Velimirović, Ph.D., the single most influential person in Fr. Justin's life.
During the early part of World War I, in autumn of 1914, Blagoje served as a student nurse primarily in South Serbia—Skadar, Niš, Kosovo, etc. Unfortunately, while in this capacity, he contracted typhus during the winter of 1914 and had to spend over a month in a hospital in Niš. On January 8, 1915, he resumed his duties sharing the destiny of the Serbian army, he passed a path of Golgotha from Peć to Skadar (along which 100,000 Serbian soldiers died) where on January 1, 1916, he entered the monastic order in the Orthodox cathedral of Skadar, and took the name of St. Justin, after the great Christian philosopher and martyr for Christ, St. Justin the Philosopher.
Shortly after becoming a monk, Father Justin, along with several other students, traveled to Petrograd, Russia, to begin a year's study in the Orthodox seminary there. It was here the young monk Justin first dedicated himself more fully to Orthodoxy and the monastic way. He learned of the great ascetics of Russia: St. Anthony the Great and St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves in Kiev, St. Seraphim Sarovsky, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. John of Kronstadt, and others.
After his year's study and sojourn in Russia, Fr. Justin Popović entered, by the prompting of his older colleague, Fr. Nikolai Velimirovich later Bishop Nikolaj, the Theological School in Oxford, England. Justin attended the studies of theology at Oxford in the period 1916-1919, but his doctor's thesis under the title "Filozofija i religija F.M.Dostojevskog" (The Philosophy and Religion of F.M. Dostoevsky) was not accepted.
In 1923, Fr. Justin became the editor of the Orthodox journal The Christian Life; and in this journal appeared his first doctoral dissertation, "The Philosophy and Religion of Dostoevsky," for which he was persecuted at Oxford. Together with his fellow colleagues from the Oxford University he has edited the periodical The Christian Life for twenty years.
In 1926 he was promoted to the title of the Doctor of Theology at the Faculty of Theology, University in Athens (his dissertation being "Problem ličnosti i saznanja po Sv. Makariju Egipatskom", The Problem of Personality and Cognition According to St. Macarius of Egypt). For his course on the Lives of the Saints, Justin began to translate into Serbian the Lives of the Saints from the Greek, Syriac, and Slavonic sources, as well as numerous minor works of the Fathers—homilies of Ss. John Chrysostom, Macarius, and Isaac of Syria. He also wrote an exquisite book, The Theory of Knowledge According to St. Isaac.
From 1930 until 1932 after a stint as Professor in the Theological Academy of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Prizren, he was an associate and escort of Bp. Joseph (Cvijovich) of Bitola in reorganizing the Church of the Carpatho-Russians in Czechoslovakia. This area had been besieged by those espousing Uniatism, where previously converted Christians of these regions started their conversion back into Orthodoxy.
Fr. Dr. Justin was chosen, in 1934, as Professor of Dogmatics at the Theological Faculty of St. Sava in Belgrade. As the professor at the University of Belgrade he was one of the founders (1938) of the Serbian Philosophical Society along with a number of noted intellectuals of Belgrade.
He was also the professor of Dogmatics at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Belgrade from 1934 until 1941, until the World War II. In 1945, within the perspective of the newly established communist and atheistic regime, the likes of a zealous Christian such as St. Justin, who was now beginning to convert the intellectuals to faith in Jesus Christ, had no place. Considered ineligible by the Communist party, together with a few fellow professors, he was ousted from the Faculty in 1945. As an ecclesiastical person and clergyman St. Justin spent 31 years in the Monastery Ćelije under the continuous surveillance of the Communist Party police.
Apolytikion in Tone One
Let us honor with splendor the divinely inspired theologian, the wise Serb Justin, who by the scythe of the Holy Spirit hath thrashed the error of atheism and the insolence of the Latins, being a mystic of the God-man and lover of piety, crying out: Glory to Christ Who hath glorified thee, glory to Him Who hath crowned thee, glory to Him Who hath rendered thee a luminary to those who are in a state of darkness.
Kontakion in Tone One
We proclaim to the faithful the inexhaustible fount conveying the Orthodox doctrines, and an angel-like man full of divine zeal, the divine Justin, the offspring of the Serbs, who by his sound teachings and writings hath strengthened the faith of all in the Lord.
"In Christianity truth is not a philosophical concept nor is it a theory, a teaching, or a system, but rather, it is the living theanthropic hypostasis—the historical Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Before Christ men could only conjecture about the Truth since they did not possess it. With Christ as the incarnate divine Logos the eternally complete divine Truth enters into the world. For this reason the Gospel says: "Truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17)."
- "The Philosophy and Religion of F.M. Dostoevsky" (1923)
- "Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church", I-III (1932, 1935, 1980)
- "The Progress in the Death Mill" (1933)
- "The Foundations of Theology" (1939)
- "Dostoevsky on Europe and Slavism" (1940)
- "Philosophical Abysses" (1957)
- "The Man and the God-Man" (1969, in Greek)
- "Hagiographies of the Saints", I-XII (1972-1977)
- "The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism" (1974, in Greek and Serbian)
- Communique from the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade April 26-May 5, 2010, announcing the glorification of St Justin.
- Life of Our Father Justin Archimandrite of Chelije by the V. Rev. Protopresbyter Daniel Rogich
- Photos of Archimandrite Justin Popovich (scroll down the page for thumbnail previews)
- The Attributes of the Church by Blessed Father Justin Popovich
- Condemned to Immortality: A meditation on the Resurrection
- Perfect God and Perfect Man
- How to read the Bible and Why
- Homily on the Feast of the Beheading of St John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord
- Kommentar zum HI. Evangelium nach Matthãus in German.
- Житие Св. Саввы Life of St. Sava (in Russian)