The Ćelije Monastery, the place where miracle worker Ava Justin watches over us, lies hidden in a wonderful natural environment, surrounded with wood-covered hills and the mysterious Gradac Canyon.
The turbulent history of Serbian plight affected the role of the monastery as well
According to the folk tradition, this holy place was founded by king Dragutin Nemanjić (1282-1316). The monastery is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, and in front of the entrance there is a tomb of Ilija Birčanin, a Serbian duke and leader, who was killed in 1804 during the Slaughter of the Dukes in Valjevo.
The temple was destroyed and set on fire many a time and it followed the fate of the Serbs and their plight.
The temple was burnt down in 1810, and the church was rebuilt by the citizens of Valjevo, of Armenian origin, which could be seen in the church kube built in the Armenian style.
The Ćelije Monastery, like all other Serbian monasteries and churches, was the center of Serbian spirituality, especially in difficult times, under the Turkish rule, in wartime, but also in the communist era.
Karađorđe’s military hospital was in the Ćelije Monastery for nine years, and after the liberation of Serbia there used to be an elementary school for public officials.
Saint Ava Justin Popović – archimandrite, clergyman, theologian and philosopher
The tomb of the great Serbian saint, archimandrite and priest, theologian and philosopher Justin Popović is located in the monastery yard, opposite the church.
One of the greatest minds, intellectuals and wise men of his time, he found his sanctuary from the communist regime in this monastery in the period from 1947 till 1979, as well as his eternal resting place.
He was born in Vranje on the Annunciation Day, he finished seminary in Belgrade under the guidance of Nikolaj Velimirović, then studied theology in Saint Petersburg and Oxford, he completed his doctorate at the University of Athens, and he was a priest in Prizren and Karlovac, as well as in Czechoslovakia.
Just before WWII he established the Serbian Philosophical Society in Belgrade. After the war the regime sent him to prison, and even his execution was being prepared.
The wise and simple Ava Justin wrote 12 books about the lives of saints, hundreds of articles and minor papers, which altogether makes 33 books of his collected works.
You can read more about this great saint and philosopher here: http://www.spc.rs/sr/zhitije_svetog_justina_tshelijskog
Pilgrims have been visiting the Ćelije Monastery for years, especially the sick seeking peace, the solution to their problems, advice and cure from the saint. Even today many people visit his grave looking for help from venerable Ava Justin.
The book entitled “Venerable Justin of Ćelije” published by the Ćelije Monastery with the blessing of Valjevo’s bishop Milutin keeps record of numerous spiritual healings of believers during Ava’s life, but also on his grave.
The Archimandrite Justin Popović died on the Orthodox feast of the Annunciation, the same day he was born. It is said that following the heart attack he prayed for ten days to die particularly on this day. God heard his prayer.
During the holy liturgy in the Saint Sava Temple in 2010 a new saint was canonized, Justin of Ćelije. His remembrance day is celebrated on June 14th.
The New Temple
The sisterhood led by the wise abbess Glikerija Janjić takes care of the monastery church, lodgings and the estate.
The deacon Nenad Ilić made a documentary about the life and work of Justin Popović entitled “Ava Justin”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7sOWwLY8fs
Igumanija Glikerija decided to build a new temple from the movie revenue. The work on the interior is currently in progress.
Like in the majority of Serbian monasteries, taking photos and recording videos is forbidden, and decent dress code is a must. The holy liturgy is held on Sundays and feast days at 8:30 am, and daily rest is from 1 to 2 pm.
Actions testify about every man’s greatness.
I read somewhere: I like to read father Justin because his books are not only written from experience, but could also be read as prayers… I often don’t understand something, but it leaves a good impression on me. It leaves an impression on the heart and leads to the comprehension of certain truths of faith precisely in the heart and awakens the love towards our Lord.
Saint Justin is easily recognizable, the fire with which he wrote could be sensed right away, as well as his love for God.
The Ćelije Monastery has some special strength and energy. This holy place leaves a different impression on each and every one of its visitors. You should come, feel and take with you the energy and blessing of this great saint. You simply have to experience it.
You can read more about the monastery here: http://www.celije.org.rs/
Here you can watch a wonderful show made by the journalist Mijo Stojkanović in which Glikerija the abbess talks about the monastery:
My lovely friend and associate Brana wrote about the Gradac Canyon in the folloing article:
Photo: www.celije.org.rs; www.spc.rs
Translation: Marija Đurđević