1. NOLI’S TRANSLATIONS INTO ALBANIAN AND ENGLISH

IDEOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF BISHOP NOLI’S LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS INTO ALBANIAN AND ENGLISH

Foti Cici

Introduction

Fan Stylian Noli (1882-1965) published around fifty books. Half of his publications are translations of liturgical texts from Greek into Albanian and English, including musical settings in both languages, a translation of the New Testament into English for liturgical use, and a complete translation of the New Testament and the Psalms into English. In addition, Noli arranged and translated into Albanian and English two catechism books.

All of this liturgical translation work of Bishop Fan Noli’s will be the subject of this paper, especially the ideological nuances that these translations contain.

After the 1940s, hundreds of articles and books were published about Noli, and many authors are still investigating different aspects of his life and work: his language, poetry, translations of world literature, historical works, politics, etc.

Noli’s Albanian translations of liturgical texts, used today in Albania and in the United States, are the only ones that exist. Even the recent liturgical publications of the Orthodox Church in Albania are mere adaptations of Noli’s original translations. His English publications of the Liturgy and the New Testament are still used by most of the Albanian Orthodox Churches in the United States and in some other parishes in different jurisdictions.

While there is a large bibliography regarding Noli’s life and secular works, it is nearly impossible to find even one work pertaining to his religious publications in either Albanian or English. Furthermore, there is no work about Noli as a bishop and leader of the Church in Albania and in the United States. There are several reasons for this gap in Noli’s bibliography.

1. After World War II, Albania was governed by a Communist regime that discouraged all references to religion, including the sacred texts of all the religions practiced in the country. Bishop Noli’s secular works, however, were taught in the Albanian schools during the dictatorship (1945 – 1991) and he was considered by the regime as a forerunner of Communism in Albania; during this period very few Albanians knew that he was a bishop. Furthermore, in 1967, Enver Hoxha’s government forbade religion by law. Consequently, up to the 1990s, Albania did not have any works on Noli’s liturgical translations or his ecclesiastic career.

2. While in Albania it was impossible to produce any work in this area, there was not the same degree of censorship of religious publications in Kosova. However, liturgical translations are a very specific field of scholarship and no Kosovar author had an interest or the background to deal with them. Most importantly, Kosova does not have an Albanian Orthodox community. Also I do not know of any studies of Noli’s liturgical translations by Albanian authors in Macedonia, which most likely shared a similar situation with Kosova.

3. Another reason for this bibliographical gap is the current situation in Albania. For nearly fifty years under the communist dictatorship, there were no Religious Studies in Albania; and for twenty-four years, there was not even a Sunday school. As a result, contemporary Albanian authors are not able to understand liturgical texts, or read liturgical Greek and Byzantine Music, and do not have the religious background with which to approach Noli’s translations, in either Albanian or English.

Most Albanian authors avoid mentioning Noli’s liturgical translations which they associate with “religion and its stereotypes,” a subject not worthy of scholarly attention. This attitude is supported by the general ridicule in Albania of the idea of Noli, a man who “did not believe in God,” being a bishop; the influence of Socialist Realism, as an institutional ideology on Albanian cultural and literary life for almost fifty years, which is is still alive today…

4. One of the few theologians to survive the dictatorship in Albania was the late Greek-Albanian Dhimitër Beduli, and he was the only scholar with the theological and liturgical background to read Bishop Noli’s ecclesiastical work. He started to publish a critical study of Noli’s liturgical translations in the early 1990s from the Orthodox point of view. But Beduli was accused by Albanian nationalists of denigrating Noli’s work and his publication was stopped.

It is difficult to speak objectively in Albania, or in Albanian, about Noli’s life and work. Many have glorified him as an anti-Greek hero and a great man of history and of letters, a man whom no Albanian would criticize, unless “they have been paid by the Greeks.”  In the case of the late Beduli, this would be factually true, though he was being paid for his theological assistance to the Greek Archbishop Anastasios, not for writing articles against Bishop Noli.

5. The Albanian Orthodox Church itself has never encouraged research about Noli’s ecclesiastical career. The largest Albanian Orthodox community outside of Albania is the Albanian Archdiocese in America, under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), where Noli’s English and Albanian liturgical translations are in use. The Albanian Archdiocese is run by a single family in a business fashion: Bishop Nikon Liolin and Chancelor Fr. Arthur Liolin, both men without theological studies or intellectual curiosities.

Bishop Nikon, a light reader and a heavy smoker who speaks no word in Albanian or Greek, does not have to explain why Noli’s translations should be used in Church… The elder brother, Fr. Arthur, who speaks some Albanian but does not read Greek, believes that Noli’s English translations should be used in all Albanian parishes in the United States.[1] This is a response to those Albanian parishes that have hired non-Albanian priests, mostly OCA converts who have found easy employment without professional standards and who prefer to use other English translations.

6. There is a well-known Albanian Community of Byzantine rite in Southern Italy, the Arbëresh or Greco-Albanese. A strong spiritual connection links the Greek Catholic Albanians of Italy with other Albanians worldwide and the original texts used for worship by them and by the Albanian Christian Orthodox are the same. Yet, Arbëresh authors make very few and obscure references to the subject of Noli.[2]

7. A negative factor is the attack on Noli by contemporary Greek authors writing about Albania. They approach Bishop Noli with the same confrontational attitude that the Greek Church had towards Noli in the 1920s.

Professor Apostolos Glavinas of the University of Thesssaloniki is the only Greek scholar who provided any source material for those interested to finding Greek references to the Orthodox Church of Albania.[3] He did the only significant research on the history of the Albanian Church, yet from a narrow point of view. He describes Noli at best as “an adventurer” and he states that “The Orthodox Albanians did not have the right to be separated from the Patriarchate and proclaim their Church as Autocephalous.”[4] The traditionalist Greek professor condemns Bishop Noli because he worked for the “nationalisation” of the Orthodox Church in Albania. Glavinas, who does not read any Albanian, disavows Noli’s translations because he replaced Greek words with Albanian or foreign ones.[5]

8. The Archbishop of Albania Anastasios Yannoulatos, a former Greek Professor of the University of Athens who was sent to Tirana by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to become the Primate of the Albanian Church, does not allow any research on Bishop Noli’s work, since he is considered an enemy of the Patriarchate and of the Church of Greece. Therefore any author working under Archbishop Anastasios’ jurisdiction (or under his political and, especially, financial influence) cannot express views about Noli that are contrary to those held by the Greek Church.

I believe that this bibliographical vacuum regarding Bishop Fan Noli’s ecclesiastical work has a political ground, which is what has motivated me to write this paper. The empty Albanian “fanolism” and nationalism on the one hand, and the anti-Albanian Greek campaign, on the other, are the main obstacles to approaching Noli’s church contribution with an objective eye.

Bishop Noli’s liturgical translations in Albanian and English are worth reading for the first time as a source of his ideology. He has influenced the political, religious and the intellectual life in Albania as few other men have in Albanian history. Nevertheless this does not prevent us from viewing Fan S. Noli in his human dimensions…

© Foti Cici



[1] Personal interview with Fr. Arthur Liolin, Boston MA, May 9, 2000.

[2] Giussepe Ferrare “La Chiesa Ortodossa Albanese,” Oriente Christiano, Rome,  XVIII (4) 1978; Peshkop Lefter Fortino, “Fan Noli dhe trashigimi arbëresh i Liturgjisë së Shenjtë të Joan Gojartit,” Flamurtari i kombit, 1982, p. 34.

[3] Γλαβίνα Αποστόλου, Η Ορθόδοξη Αυτοκέφαλη Εκκλησία της Αλβανίας, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1998, Δ’ έκδοση. The 4th revised edition of Apostolos Glavinas’ book has been translated from Katharevousa to Demotic.

[4] Ibid. p.53.

[5] Ibid. p.32.

2. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON NOLI’S LITURGICAL BACKGROUND

The questions pertaining to Bishop Noli’s liturgical background are: When did he learn Albanian, English, liturgical Greek and Byzantine Music? Did he study theology? Was Noli trained as a translator? The answer to these questions will give a better understanding of his work as a translator of the Liturgy into both Albanian and English.

As for his early life Bishop Noli establishes a very simple narrative in his autobiography: “Fan Stylian Noli was born in Ibrik Tepe (Kuteza), an Albanian settlement south of Adrianople in Eastern Thrace, European Turkey on January 6, 1882. [...] Theofan, his given name, grew up in a family with strong Albanian traditions and customs as well as with a Christian Orthodox spirituality. Albanian was his only language until he attended school; his primary and high school education was in Greek. The Gymnasium of Adrianople where he studied specialized in training young men to become teachers and cantors. Here Noli became familiar with the liturgical rite of the Greek Orthodox Church. In addition, he studied Byzantine Music, which he had been learning from his early childhood, from his father, using the Greek text both for practice and notation.” [1]

Noli became fully educated in Greek, both modern and classical, and in ecclesiastical studies in general, but not in theology itself.

In 1901, he left for Constantinople[2] and then to Athens, intending to study literature, although in the end, he was not able to study at the University of Athens.[3] He first worked for a Belgian trolley company, then as a copyist for a playwright and a theatrical company, and later on as a prompter and actor traveling with different theatrical companies from 1901 – 1903.

During 1903-1904, he published in Greek his first essays in the newspaper Noumas, using his legal name Theofanis Mavromatis. One of his articles on the Greek language was written from a very Greek prospective… Bishop Noli does not disclose in his autobiography those painful memories of confusion and identity crisis, when Theofanis Mavromatis struggled to become Fan Noli.

Mr. Mavromatis wrote in Demotic and not in Katharevousa, which shows his progressive ideological views about the form of language that he would use for the public for which he made his future translations in Albanian.

From 1903 – 1906 he worked as a teacher and chanter in Greek communities in Egypt. During these years Noli had the opportunity to perfect his skills in Byzantine Music[4] which is an important detail about his musical skills as a translator of the Liturgy.

Furthemore, in Egypt he met Albanian nationalists who encouraged him to move to the United States of America. Only in Egypt did Noli learn about what was going on in the Albanian world, both in politics and letters, because he had the chance to read all the existing publications in the Albanian language for the first time. His interests and passions shifted totally. A stranger without a homeland, a polyglot without a mother tongue had discovered a nation for himself…

In 1906, he arrived in New York by using a fake passport under the name of the Albanian teacher and author Petro Luarasi. The twenty-four year old immigrant who had a strong background in Greek, Albanian, French, Turkish and other languages, and work experience mostly in teaching, Byzantine Music and theater, first worked as a factory worker in Buffalo.

Later, he became deputy editor of the Boston Albanian newspaper Kombi (The Nation). This is an important period of his life because Noli at this time learned how to write Albanian.[5] He had read Albanian literature in Egypt, but now he began to translate and write original works in Albanian, including poetry.

With this stage in his life, we have a complete background to all of Noli’s work as a translator of Liturgy into Albanian: Greek and Albanian languages, Byzantine Music, literary and poetic talent, previous experience in translation and writing. His future studies and activities will have no further effect on our subject, except for his command of English, which Noli did not have that time, but would perfect during his studies at Harvard University.

In 1908, he was ordained a priest by the Russian Archbishop of New York, Platon, as a celibate, although before ordination he was thinking of being ordained as a married priest. He wrote many letters and asked from his friends and Albanian communities in Egypt and Romania to find and send to America a “rich woman” as his future priftëreshë (priest’s wife), until he met Archbishop Platon and made the decision to be a bishop, which in Orthodox Church requires the candidate to be a non married priest.[6]

Noli entered the clergy not as a theologian but as an Orthodox intellectual with interdisciplinary formation, boldness, ambition and vision. Fr Theofan was professionally comfortable with his liturgical duties: Byzantine Music, literature, acting and languages were his strongest attributes. Although he was not a gifted pastor, the young priest was a talented public speaker. Especially in his days being an orator was a condition for being a politician and church leader. He had learned the skills of speaking to an audience from his earlier life and had a popular approach in his preaching, full of literary and cultural references. He contemplated and lived the priesthood as a “transition” period…

His ordination to the priesthood became a starting point, and Noli began his significant work in the history of Albania with his monumental translations of the Liturgy into Albanian.

He began to organize an Albanian Orthodox Church in America under the jurisdiction and the protection of Russian Church. That same year he enrolled at Harvard University to study literature. It was during his studies at Harvard, while he was serving as a priest for Albanian immigrants, that he translated and published his first set of liturgical translations into Albanian and edited the newspaper Dielli (The Sun).

Furthermore, in 1912, together with Faik Bey Konitza,[7] he founded the pan-Albanian Federation Vatra (The Hearth), which was destined to become the most significant Albanian organization in America, with strong influence on the political landscape for the new Albanian state back in the homeland.

During 1908-1912, Fan Noli became famous among Albanians as a gifted intellectual, a talented writer and translator, and a Community leader. Very quickly he became indispensable part of an emerging Albanian national literature.

His multidimensional personality and genuine national contribution were stronger than all those patriotic voices questioning his Albanianness by referring to his enigmatic cultural background. With hard work, discipline and dedication Fan Noli imposed himself in the Albanian world. This was the most productive period of his life.

In 1915, after graduating from Harvard and visiting Albania and Albanian communities in Romania, Bulgaria and Russia for the first time, Noli founded the periodical Adriatic Review. In 1919, Archimandrite Theofan was elected bishop by the Russian Synod but was not ordained, because of the strong reaction against this decision from the Greek Church.

In 1920, Noli, who called himself “Bishop Fan Noli,”[8] even though he was not ordained into episcopacy, headed the Albanian delegation to Geneva and was successful in having Albania admitted to the League of Nations. From Geneva he returned in Albania to represent Vatra to the parliament in Tirana.

The scandal of self-ordination to episcopacy, especially by mobilising his Albanian flock in America to “consecrate” him, demonstrates Noli’s lack of both theological studies and ecclesiastical phronema. He was not interested in theology and this is the biggest problem in his liturgical translations. However, Archimandrite Theofan enjoyed church independence and was not defrocked by the Russian Church.

In 1922, Noli became Minister of Foreign Affairs and on the same year the first Albanian Orthodox Congress was held in Berat of central Albania. The Congress proclaimed the independence of the local Church and established the “National Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania.” Noli was absent but the shadow of his self-ordination was there…

An administrative council was elected, preparing the way for a local synod of bishops, and the first Constitution of the Church was approved. The Albanian Orthodox representatives, clergy and laity, discussed the needs for a better and complete canon of Liturgy in Albanian. Noli’s liturgical translations on Article 13 of the Constitution were received as “temporary.” It was another word for condemnation.

The course of history changed, when in 1923, Noli was ordained canonically into episcopacy and was named Metropolitan of Durrës and Tirana. Thus, His Eminence Theofan became the first de facto Primate of the national Orthodox Church in Albania, but without the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Nevertheless, the patriarchal hierarchs who ordained him, were not disciplined by Constantinople, and the new Bishop together with the first local synod in Albania did not face canonical charges.

In 1924, Noli became Prime Minister of Albania, leading a “democratic” government that had taken power by force, compelling the feudal Prime Minister Ahmet Bey Zogu to flee to Serbia. After six months, with the overthrow of his government by Zogu’s forces, Noli left Albania forever, having lived there for about four years only. Zogu, who became King Zog I of Albania in 1928, passed a death sentence in absentia on the “rebel Bishop.”

During his short presence in Albania, Noli’s life and activity was mostly political and cultural. He invested further into becoming a national figure in a predominately Muslim country. The Harvard graduate viewed himself as an outsider and enlightener of a backward Albanian nation, and this was his strongest “missionary” passion. He experienced the church activity as part of this universal role among Albanians.

The providence would consume his life and many talents for a nation in darkness… The best evidence is his fine translations of world literature into Albanian: Shakespeare, Cervantes, Edgar Allan Poe, Omar Khayyam and others. There is also politics and public discourse in a popular language. For a genius like Noli, the Church was so small…

While in Albania, Noli found time to translate Persian poetry but he did not work on improving or completing his liturgical translations. Yet he tried to reform the Byzantine Church music by bringing to Albania a Russian choir, for which he expresses sentiment and pride in his autobiography.

Reading his life and work in impartiality, it can be said that Noli’s canonical ordination was his only ecclesiastical achievement during his four years in Albania. Contrary to the truth, the Albanian nationalist propaganda anointed him as the founder of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania, when in fact he was not even present in the Congress of Berat. He was born for greater things…

In 1932, the former Metropolitan of Dyrrachium returned to the United States after spending eight years in Europe, mostly in Germany, waiting for an American visa and translating and publishing world literature in Albanian. Neither Noli nor his biographers give us any information about his life during these years of political exile. From the views of the bibliographical references, this is the gloomiest period of his life. Yet one thing was proved sufficiently true: A great man had no homeland.

As Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America — a title which Noli himself invented — but considered an “uncanonical Bishop” by the Greek Church and by many Albanians,[9] he experienced isolation and persecution by Zog’s regime and his spies among the Albanians in America.

Bishop Noli became very ill and was abandoned by his parishes, by many of his friends and by the Orthodox Church of Albania. In this extreme loneliness, from his hospital bed, Fan Noli sought help from many directions. The only one to hear his voice was Ahmet Zogu; the “compassionate” Muslim King paid all his enemy’s medical bills and saved him from death.

In 1935, at the age of fifty-three, Noli went to study music at the New England Conservatory in Boston and the following year he published Hymnore, a musical book with settings of the Liturgy in Albanian. Although he was a musician, Noli wanted to perfect his skills in composition. This is the only effort that Bishop Noli made to be trained as a professional translator of Liturgy, because he had difficulty setting to music his future translations into English. If Bishop Noli had made the same effort to be trained in theology or philology, as well as in music, his liturgical translations would have been much different in both languages.

When Italy occupied Albania in 1939, King Zog abandoned the country to save his life and asked Noli to become Prime Minister of his government in exile. But the antiroyalist politician rejected the offer. At this moment of history the two most famous Albanians had more than one thing in common: A self-bestowed King and a self-bestowed Primate were both in exile…

After the graduation from the Conservatory (1938), Noli started his second period of Albanian liturgical translations (1941-1952). This happened while he was pursuing graduate studies for a PhD dissertation at Boston University in history, writing a thesis on the national hero of Albania, Skanderbeg.

Taking advantage of Noli’s political weakness as not being universally accepted by all Albanians in America, the Ecumenical Patriarchate undertook a campaign against “so-called Bishop Noli” by ordaining a young Albanian as the “canonical Bishop of the Albanians in America.” This was a real threat, but Noli managed to keep control of most of his parishes.

This political division among Albanians after the Second World War provided an opening for the Ecumenical Patriarch to establish the Albanian Diocese in America under Bishop Mark Lipe, as a rival to the Albanian Orthodox Church in America under Bishop Fan Noli. Another negative affecting Noli’s power was the fact that the Greek Archbishop Athenagoras, later to become the Ecumenical Patriarch, was himself of Albanian background, and thus was able to celebrate and preach among the Albanian parishes in America in their own language.

Bishop Noli supported the recognition of the communist government in Albania, but he did not agree to return to Albania at Enver Hoxha’s invitation before the first communist elections in 1945. In 1963, however, when Noli wanted to visit Albania, he was not accepted by the communist regime.[10]

Nevertheless, the Socialist Realism doctrine included him into the canon of national literature and established a mythical profile of Fan S. Noli. The “Democratic” Revolution of 1924, his popular History of Skanderbeg, the anti-feudal and anti-royal rhyming poems, the brilliant translations of classic world literature, the plethoric writings on literary criticism and political analysis were exceedingly sufficient to undo his religious profile and impose oblivion on his most voluminous works: The Orthodox liturgical publications.

Contemplating his rising cult in the history of Albania, Bishop Noli was well pleased to dedicate the last period of his life to translating the Liturgy, the New Testament and the Psalms into English. (1949-1964)

He died peacefully in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 13, 1965 at the age of eighty-three, a few days after his successor, Fr. Stefan Lasko, was sent by him to Albania to be ordained into the episcopacy.

© Foti Cici


[1] Fan Noli, Biographical Sketch, p. 49. Noli does not say anything in his autobiography about his initial official name Theofanis Mavromatis. Noli was his actual family name, according to his memoirs. Later, Noli will drop Mavromatis after he left Greece. Theofan would remain for the Church. However in his late years he will sign letters to his siblings as Theofanis...

[2] This period is contradictory because in his autobiography Noli describes his adventures in Constantinople, where he hardly ever found room and board and the ticket to travel to Athens, but in his Harvard application Noli adds that he studied at the “Royal Italian School, Constantinople 1900 – 1901.” See Efthim Dodona, Noli i Panjohur, p. 20.

[3] Most of Noli’s biographers mention that he was enrolled at the School of Philology at the University of Athens but neither Noli himself nor any other documentation shows this. I personally did research at the archives of the University of Athens, researching the period of Noli’s stay in Greece, but I did not find any relevant reference.

[4] “He had obtained a thorough training in Byzantine chanting, which was to be most helpful to him later on,” Fan Noli, Biographical Sketch, p 96.

[5] Fan Noli, “Këshilla për shkrimtarët e rinj” (Suggestions to young authors), Vepra 5, p.284.

[6]  “Are you married? – He [Archbishop Platon] asked me. No, – I told him. That’s better, – he said, – because in this way you will be able to be Bishop one day in Albania,” “Letter to Thanas Tashko,” Boston, Mass, July 16, 1906, cited from Fan S. Noli, Vepra 6, 1996, p. 341 (translated from the original in Albanian).

[7] Faik Konitza (Konica) (1875-1942). Political figure, publicist and publisher. He was born in Konitsa of Greece and was educated in Dijon, France, and Harvard. Konica had a tremendous impact on Albanian culture at that time. His periodical Albania, written in Albanian and French, helped create the Albanian cause in Europe and fortified the Albanian movement. See: Robert Elsie, Dictionary of Albanian Literature, 1986, p.79.

[8] In 1921 Noli published his most popular book in Albanian, a panegyric history of national hero of Albania, Skanderbeg (Skënderbeu in Albanian) signed as “Peshkop (Bishop) Fan Noli,” although he had only been elected as bishop, but not ordained, and was only a priest Archimandrite or self-ordained Bishop, after his ‘romance’ with the Russian Church ended without ordaining him. Using an episcopal title in his correspondence, articles and in Church was one of Noli’s great mistakes, which the Patriarchate took advantage of to stigmatize him as a “self-ordained” bishop, even after he was canonically ordained bishop in 1923.

[9] It is surprising how Albanian politicians were using the terminology of Greek propaganda to express their loyalty to the King Zog and his benefits. See, “Djalli me maskë peshkopi” (The Bishop with Devil’s mask) Dielli, November 11, 1932, cited from Mimoza Nano, Fan Noli – Bibliografi (Me anotacion), Universiteti i Tiranës, Fakulteti Histori-Filologji, Tiranë 1980, p.102.

[10] This information was unknown until 1997, when Behar Shtylla, the former Foreign Minister of Enver Hoxha’s government in 1963, published his book (Fan Noli, siç e kam njohur, p.157, Tiranë, Dituria 1997) with his memories from the contacts he had with Bishop Noli, when he was representative of Albania at the United Nations and as a Foreign Minister.

3. NOLI’S LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS INTO ALBANIAN

During Ottoman rule (late 16th century up to early 20th century), the liturgical language of the Orthodox Church in Albania was Greek, according to an agreement between the Ottoman government and the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Orthodox population was mainly in the South and Greek influence upon the Orthodox Albanians was very strong, since Greek schools and the Byzantine rite’s churches were the only educational institution in the area.

Albanian Orthodox clergy or laity who made efforts to teach Albanian or use it in worship were excommunicated by the Church, and some of them were killed.[1] The local authorities, mostly Albanian Muslims, were ruthless to execute the government’s orders and keep the multiethnic Orthodox population under the Greek rule.

With the start of the 20th century, the Albanians, and especially the Albanian colonies outside of Albania, began to coordinate their efforts to gain the independence of their country from the Turks, which was achieved only in 1912. They realized, though, that it was impossible to be independent while at the same time having foreign religious leaders, and consequently foreign influences, for the three religions of Albania are Islam, Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

Many Albanian politicians were confused and suggested that Albanians should be united by embracing one common faith instead of being divided in three religions. And the proposed “national religion” was randomly selected by each patriotic preacher’s inherited or chosen faith: Islam, Catholicism or Protestantism. The Albanian Muslims were and are very flexible on changing religion according to their own interests. The famous sentence of the Albanian nationalist doctrine is even louder: “The religion of the Albanian is the Albanianness.”

Nevertheless, no Albanian Orthodox ever suggested the conversion of all Albanians into the Eastern Orthodox Church. Furthermore one of them, the young Fan Noli, opposed these opinions and supported the most pragmatic idea of “Albanizing” the present religions of the country by electing Albanian leaders and using Albanian in worship.[2]

The idea of having an independent Albanian Orthodox Church was not new in Noli’s days, but he was keen to become the central figure of this movement in the United States. When the Albanian Orthodox of America decided to ask the Russian Church to ordain an Albanian priest for their pastoral needs, Noli insisted that he was the persona grata to undertake this position. He defeated the other candidates and blocked the process of bringing to North America other Albanian speaking clergymen.

Noli knew what he was doing: “…I concluded that the best way for propaganda here is through the religion because one of the obstacles for our cause is the fanaticism that has been planted by the clergy and, since the fanaticism has been planted by the clergymen, should be reaped and rooted out by clergymen, with the difference that these priests should be Albanian Orthodox.”[3]

I want to emphasize, though, that Noli was not an atheist, as many Albanian and Greek scholars contend. But he was definitely not the traditional model of the Orthodox clergyman. His only passion during those years was Albania, and he was ready to do anything, even though he did not feel a calling to priesthood. But as a priest Fan Noli had the opportunity to preach and organize more effectively the Albanians in America who were mostly Orthodox Christians from southern Albania.

In his late 20s, Noli was dreaming of planting this Church of the Albanian Diaspora in his homeland and of being the first Albanian Archbishop.[4] In addition, Noli concluded that only as a priest would he have the financial means to study literature at Harvard, which he had not been able to do at the University of Athens.[5]

FIRST PERIOD OF LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS: 1908-1914

It was in 1908 that Noli was ordained,  and, as a condition for having an Albanian Orthodox Mission under his jurisdiction, was asked by the Russian Archbishop to present for approval a printed Service Book in Albanian.

This put Noli into a difficult position because it was hard for him to start this monumental work of liturgical translations by himself. He asked the help of Greek-educated Albanian philologists and theologians but no one was to be found in America, and even though he announced his request in the Albanian press, there were no positive responses from Albania or the Albanian communities abroad. Some other Orthodox Albanians were not opposing the translation in theory, but they had the same hesitations as today in Greece, where some theologians are waiting for a second St John Chrysostom to translate the Liturgy into Modern Greek… Having no other solutions, Fr. Theofan began the translation into Albanian by himself.

When Noli decided to translate the Liturgy, he did not look to any previous work in the field. In actuality, there were no liturgical printed translations in Albanian and I doubt if he had the opportunity to see any manuscripts of fragmentary previous works. Furthermore, Noli does not mention anywhere the first printed translation of the New Testament into Albanian, published in 1827 by Archbishop Gregorios Argyrokastrites. But he knew very well Kostandin Kristoforidhi’s translations of the New Testament and some books of the Old Testament.[6]

It is very important to see Noli’s initial ideological agenda in his translations, comparing his works with those of Kristoforidhi, because his biblical translations were the basis of the existing Orthodox liturgical terminology in Albanian. Kristoforidhi was a very challenging figure for Noli as a translator of Liturgy.

Kristoforidhi had absolute authority in Albanian letters and especially in Orthodox terminology, which was created through his translations into Tosk, the Albanian dialect of southern Albania. Most Orthodox Albanians spoke Tosk, which was Noli’s language as well and would be the language of his translations and his works in general in his Albanian publications. Although Noli admired Kristoforidhi’s New Testament translation into Tosk, he would not accept his works as modern patterns in his new school of translations into Albanian. This was very daring, and after his liturgical publications were issued, Albanian scholars attacked Noli because he did not follow Kristoforidhi’s way of translating certain Greek terms.

For instance, a Greek philology graduate, Aleksandër Xhuvani, criticized Noli for not agreeing  to the translation of the Greek term mysterion into Albanian, as mister for both meanings mystery and sacrament. Noli used mister for mystery, but sakrament for sacrament, supporting his opinion according to the meanings that this Greek word has in French. But Xhuvani insists that “since I know Greek there is no way to ‘suffer’ and explain it through French and other languages.” Although Xhuvani’s article has a purist spirit for the most part, in this case Noli was proved wrong.[7]

Noli and Kristoforidhi had different backgrounds, decidedly different ideological influences, different conditions for their work and a different reception for their publications in Albania. Kristoforidhi was born in Elbasan, in central Albania, where the two main dialects of Albanian (Gheg and Tosk) meet. He was also well known as a linguist of the Albanian language who had studied in several countries and was professionally prepared for his translations. Fan Noli was not born in Albania and he knew only his forefathers’ sub-dialect of Tosk, which he only spoke and was trying to learn to write, just a few years before he made his liturgical translations.

Kristoforidhi worked for many years on his translations and he had the support of the British Biblical Society for his publications. Noli translated the church services and the hymns in a very short period of time, during his years of studying literature at Harvard University, without professional training. The only support that Noli had was by Albanian patriots in Albanian colonies outside Albania, who were convinced by Noli’s speeches that these books should be published for the salvation of the nation and must be published as soon as possible, “regardless of their quality.” [8]

Kostandin Kristoforidhi came from one generation older than Noli, which meant that his views about the language were strictly purist and his purpose was to create a national language, taking out the Greek and other foreign words. Kristoforidhi’s purpose was to translate the Bible writing in two dialects of Albanian, giving to the Albanians the impression that Gheg and Tosk are not that different and should be united in one national language. Kristoforidhi worked hard to prove with his translations that the Albanian language has the potential to express all modern terminology without borrowing foreign words.

Kristoforidhi used the Greek alphabet for the Tosk publications and the Latin alphabet for Gheg. But Noli had a different ideology about the standardization of Albanian. He wanted to make Tosk a literary language for all Albanians, enriching it with new modern terms from other western languages, thus removing many purist words from Krisroforidhi’s tradition, and using only the Latin alphabet. Noli used Gheg only in a satirical political poem and in some official documents during his tenure as Prime Minister, which were most likely written by his secretary with Noli’s signature.

Last and not least, although Kristoforidhi was Orthodox, he was a layman working for a Protestant organization and not a priest of the organized church. He did not have the pressure of time and had greater independence to act according to his beliefs. Noli was not a layman but a priest under the Russian Orthodox jurisdiction. He did not have the luxury of waiting, studying, and perfecting his translations. These texts were the first step toward creating an Albanian Church in the United States, and the quality of the translations was a secondary matter.

When Fr. Noli started his liturgical translations, he already had a good background with literary translations. In 1909 he spoke nine languages. But he had two serious problems to face. First, Noli had a cultural background in Liturgy and in Church practices, but not a theological one. As a Christian Orthodox, he had a good intuitive knowledge of church issues, but that was not enough. Second, he did not have at that time a linguistic background in the Albanian language. This would have helped Noli to make a better translation of the liturgical terms in Albanian. Being a gifted poet though, he overcame most of these obstacles and created a literary tradition beyond his time.

While many Albanians could not understand how a young priest would not accept Kristoforidhi’s authority in Albanian, Noli had a different view on his life: “I am Nietzsche’s partisan,” he used to write to his friends. Noli believed that he was chosen by God to be the Apostle of the Albanian nation. He had the feeling that he was born to liberate Albania and save it from the Greeks and the Turks. And everything was possible with “discipline of the mind” and especially with the obedience of the hoi polloi to the one “who is stronger in mind and in knowledge.”[9]

It is surprising how Noli managed to translate all these texts while at the same time studying full time at Harvard. He was also the editor of Dielli, a weekly Albanian political newspaper, and the pastor of thousands Albanian Orthodox immigrants. Before his graduation he traveled in Europe to preach and prepare the way for an independent Albanian Church in the Albanian colonies in Romania, Russia etc. However, Noli’s ecclesiastical activity in these years was only part of his work in Albanian politics and letters.

There are six books from this period, most of them dedicated to the Russian Archbishop Platon. The first book is a translation of the Holy Week services and hymns,[10] and was translated very quickly to be in time for Easter. From this book, we see how Noli was struggling to create his personality in the Albanian world.  His language is full of sub-dialectical forms, compared to the other five liturgical books of this period. His linguistic style is not consistent, the biblical readings are cited from Kristoforidhi, and he chose to use one of the many alphabets of that time.  A few months later, the Congress on the Albanian Alphabet was held in Macedonia. Fr. Noli adopted the new alphabet, although he did not agree with the decision reached by Albanian scholars representing both dialects.

After the second publication (the Service Book), Noli made clear the purpose and the nature of his ecclesiastical work. He was not willing to undertake a full translation of the Liturgy and the Bible of the Orthodox Church into Albanian, a work which even today does not exist. The young priest sincerely promised his fellow Orthodox Albanians to provide them with the most important services in Albanian, as an indispensable tool for worship in their own language. In Noli’s notes for all these publications we see that the author is asking for financial support from the Albanians, without which he could not complete the project.

Noli’s decision to publish these translations raised the question of providing the canon for the Albanian Liturgy. In the first period (1908 – 1914), Noli selected the most useful services and hymns, trying to give an exact translation from the Greek and reining in his tendency towards free translation. Instead of translating the whole Parakletike, he published a small Lutjesore, translating only the Sunday hymns (Saturday evening Vespers and Sunday morning Orthros), without shortening the hymns and the services. In such a way, Noli was helping the Albanians to have a full service on Sundays and the most common feasts of the liturgical year.

If Noli had had an exclusively spiritual motivation, along with the necessary time, he would have also translated the daily hymns from the twelve-volume hymnological work, Menaia, and given the full translation of the Lenten Book, Triodion, and the Easter Pentikostarion. For the weekday services of the great feasts, Noli translated and published a one-volume anthology from Menaion, compiling thus a Festal Menaion in Albanian. And from Triodion and Pentikostarion he translated the Sunday services and the Holy Week services and hymns.

While Noli was publishing the Service Book, he began to inform and activate the Albanian Orthodox inside and outside of Albania, asking them to send petitions to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the independence of the Albanian Church, using the fact that the Liturgy had been translated by an Orthodox Albanian priest. But he also asked Albanian patriots to support the recognition of his translations by the Russian Church by sending letters to Archbishop Platon stating that the translations were accurate, whether they actually believed that to be true or not.[11]

In these translations Noli enriched the language with foreign modern terms and created his literary style in Albanian. Noli was trying to create a literary Albanian language in keeping with the modern terminology of European languages.

The philosophy of these translations ran counter to Noli’s will and talent. He was being challenged to provide literal translations, whereas his second liturgical translations (1941 – 1952) and all his future literary translations in Albanian were much more free.

In these first translations, Noli had reason to give an exact meaning for the original Greek, thus sacrificing the musical setting of the text. It is very difficult in any language to balance the exact translation of the original hymns while keeping the originality of Byzantine chant. But in Noli’s case, his political intention was to induce the Orthodox Church to accept and recognize these books and not to erect obstacles to the movement for the independence of the Albanian Church. With this strategy he hoped that any negative reaction to his translations would be limited.

This was his first series of liturgical publications. Before the work was complete, Noli had made it clear that he would fulfill his promises to his countrymen, giving them the most essential prayers in Albanian, before now dedicating himself to translations of world literature “for which the nation has such a great need.”[12]

The reception of this period’s translations by many Albanian figures, including Faik Bey Konitza, the most prominent intellectual of Albanian letters at that time, was very warm: “The Church book that the Reverend Fan S. Noli will publish soon is only a translation; but what a translation it is! What a strong, coherent, edgy and lively language! Albanian literature would be right to dislike the Church who stole from us a writer gifted from birth, but fortunately, our friend, entering the Church did not leave letters behind.”[13]

After this early literary review on Noli’s Service Book, more than three decades later Konitza will renew his support and admiration towards Fan Noli: “The use of Albanian in Liturgy is one of his [Noli’s] greatest achievements. The day on which he conducted his first Albanian Liturgy is a turning point in the history of the Albanian Renaissance. We cannot forget it and we cannot let others forget it.”[14]

Other intellectuals were also enthusiastic, as we find in their later writings. The most well known Albanian poet Lasgush Poradeci (Llazar Gusho) wrote on how warmly received was Noli’s Service Book by the Albanian Orthodox Community in Romania. The master of Albanian poetics, who had no admiration on Noli’s poetry, rendered mastery to Noli’s liturgical translations.[15]

Also the poet and literary critic, Mitrush Kuteli (Dhimitër Pasko), praised Noli’s first liturgical translations while writing an essay on Noli’s poetry in 1943: “His Eminence Theofan not only created the first instrument which opened the way toward the Church Autocephaly, but he shaped the Albanian terminology for the Orthodox Church. These translations are today, and will be for a long time, the books of the holy services of our Church.”[16]

These words turned out to be very prophetic… In fact, Kuteli’s words are the best on describing Noli’s contribution in the history of the Albanian Church.

The reception of these works had historical importance because they were the first liturgical translations into Albanian, and without those books it was impossible to assert the independence of the Orthodox Albanians from the Greek Church. However, while the Albanian style of Noli’s translations satisfied those who were working for a literary Albanian distanced from Greek linguistic influence, the theological nuances in the texts escaped their attention.

But it were these theological details that troubled some Albanian educated clergymen and Orthodox lay intellectuals. Furthermore the canon was not complete. The first two Albanian Orthodox Statutes (1923 and 1929) expressed concerns rather than approval on Noli’s translations. Both Statutes admitted that there were no other liturgical books in Albanian and delegated the issue to the Synod of Bishops for reviewing the existing translations and taking action “as soon as possible” on translating the Church books that did not exist in Albanian.[17]

© Foti Cici



[1] Edwin E. Jacques, ‘Christian Albania, the Turks and Islamization’, The Albanians – An Ethnic history from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Jefferson 1995, p.284.

[2] Fan Noli, “Kombit Shqiptar” (To Albanian nation), Dielli, March 28, 1908, cited from Fan S. Noli, Vepra 2 (Articles 1905-25), Akademia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë, Tiranë 1987, p. 146-49.

[3] Fan Noli, “Letter to the President of the ‘Bashkimi’ (Unity) association,” February 2nd, 1907, cited from Vepra 6, p. 336 (translated from the original in Albanian).

[4] After his ordination Noli wrote very often that “the Albanian Church in America will be planted later on in Albania.” See, Fan Noli, “Kombit Shqiptar,” Dielli, March 28, 1908.

[5] For the financial problems that Noli was facing during his first two years in America there are references in many of his letters of that time. See “Letter to Thanas Tashko,” Boston, Mass, July 16, 1906, cited from Fan S. Noli, Vepra 6, 1996, p. 341.

[6] Kostandin Nelko Kristoforidhi (1830-1895). Translator and linguist. He was educated in Zosimea Ioanninon, Greece, and Malta. Translated the New Testament and many books of Old Testament in two dialects of Albanian. Kristoforidhi is as well author of children’s works. In  addition he wrote Γραμματική της Αλβανικής Γλώσσης and Λεξικό της Αλβανικής Γλώσσης, which is regarded as one of the best dictionaries of the Albanian language until recent times. See: Robert Elsie, Dictionary of Albanian Literature, 1986, p.82.

[7] Aleksandër Xhuvani, “Puna e fjalës mysterion,” Shkrepëtima, March 5 1911. However today there is some tendency to use the word “sakrament” (or as an adjective “sakramental”), instead of “mister,” in the Orthodox terminology, especially on the part of English-educated Albanian theologians.

[8] “Letter to Thanas Tashko,” Boston, Mass, February 9, 1908, cited from Vepra 6, p.344-45.

[9] Ali Baba Qyteza (one of Noli’s aliases), “Detyra e parë” (The first duty), Kombi, August 4, 1906, cited from Vepra 2, p.96-97.

Furthermore, Noli’s psychology when he was reading Nietzsche, in his mid to late 20s, is disclosed in one of his letters to the Albanian activist, and his benefactor, Thanas Tashko, expressing a rare confessional character: “I am able to give courage to myself because I have sky, sun and light in my body. I am a son of God among his chosen sons. My mother told me the same thing. The night before she gave birth to Me, Myself, My Holiness, My Majesty, the Honor of Albania, she saw a terrible dream, as though she was giving birth to five people. When she would say this to me, I would tell her: “Yes, Mother! You gave birth not to five, but to a whole armed battalion.” From “Letter to Thanas Tashko,” Vepra 6, p.350 (Translated from the original Albanian).

[10] Shërbes’ e Javës së Madhe, kethyer nga grecishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1908. Dhimitër Beduli, who briefly commented on Bishop Noli’s liturgical translations in Albanian, does not comment on the Holy Week Book, because he did not have the chance to see it (Dhimër Beduli, Gjuha shqipe në Kishë, p.16).

[11] “Letter to Zef Nosi,” Boston, Mass, June 30, 1908, cited from Vepra 6, p.351.

[12] Librë e Shërbesave të Shënta të Kishës Orthodoxe, kthyer nga gërqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1909, p.7.

[13] Faik Bey Konitza, Albania, Nr.5, 1908, cited in Efthim Dodona, Noli i Panjohur, p.70 (translated from the original in Albanian).

[14] Faik Konitza, cited in Metropolitan Fan S. Noli, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1960, p.142.

[15] “Vepërimi Kombëtar i Shqiptarëve të Rumanisë me Kryqëndër Kolloninë e Bukureshtit,” November 13, 1931, cited from Poradeci’s collected works, Vepra 2, Tiranë, 1999, p.230.

[16] “Poeti Fan S. Noli – Vështrim panoramik,” Mall e Brengë, Tiranë 1943, cited from Fan S. Noli, Albumi, Boston, Mass, 1948, p.12.

[17] Article 13 of 1923 Statute, and article 8 of 1929 Statute.

4. NOLI’S SECOND LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS INTO ALBANIAN

SECOND PERIOD OF LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS: 1941 – 1952

Noli’s first translations were not hailed by the Albanian Orthodox Church, but were used and chanted in Albania and abroad as the only source of liturgical texts in Albanian. Regardless of the reserved ecclesiastical reception in theory, the utilitarian ethics of a national Church unintentionally traditionalized Noli’s translations.

This indirect recognition for a period of three decades was unexpected, especially for the translator who had hoped and predicted otherwise. Noli had heralded his first translations as liturgical books for temporary use, wishing for the translators of the future to improve and complete his initial work.

Ironically, his adversaries believed naively in liturgical translations of permanent use and qualities. On the other hand they could not reconcile themselves with the language reform in the Orthodox Church. Noli’s translations had exposed the divinity of the Liturgy and had broken the barrier between heaven and earth. The esthetic beauty of a ‘holy’ and distant language was sacrificed and thus the ritual was shaken. The pious Orthodox intellectuals felt compromised. Who could risk for new liturgical translations?

The references of both the 1923 and 1929 Albanian Orthodox Statutes to review and edit Noli’s translations and continue the work of liturgical translations turned out to be empty promises: From 1923 to 1950, the year when the Communist government approved the new Statute of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, the Albanian Church had accomplished only one liturgical translation of minor use…

With the words of Dhimitër Beduli, who worked as a lay theologian for several generations for the Albanian Church, “this is the most negative aspect of the spiritual leaders of the Church during this period: With the income which they possessed from large properties of monasteries and churches, and with their theological capacity, they had the potential to continue the fine work of liturgical translations, which had started centuries ago, for the complete nationalization of our Church.”[1]

While the Albanian hierarchy was possessed by perfectionism and negligence, on the opposite side Noli did not cease translating for the Albanians. Between 1914, when he published the last liturgical book of his first translation period, and 1941, when he published the first volume of the second translation period, Noli had published 14 other books, mainly translations of world literature,[2] one literary history of Skanderbeg, and a musical liturgical book in Albanian with Russian settings and Western notation.

Beyond the inability of his contemporaries to advance the Albanian liturgical translations, Bishop Noli had two other reasons to retranslate and republish the Liturgy in Albanian. First, his liturgical canon in worship was not complete, because many important services were not translated during the first period. Second, he wanted to publish the Liturgy according to his own ideology, which was not possible during his early years as a new author and young priest.

Now he was ecclesiastically and politically independent and his position in the Albanian community in America was very strong. In addition, in the 1940s, Noli had the same authority in Albanian letters as the most challenging Kostandin Kristoforidhi had had in the first period of his translations.

The contents of Noli’s six books of the first period are included, but retranslated, and the quantity is approximately doubled in the three volumes of his second period of liturgical translations.

It is surprising and disappointing that there is no apparent difference in linguistic style or liturgical terminology between the two periods of Noli’s translations. This shows that he intentionally ignored the evolution of Albanian language by maintaining his own language style, with dialectic, literary and personal nuances; the language of a mythical man in the history of Albania. He was the Forerunner… Furthermore his busy mind never thought deeply about the Liturgy. Noli did not read theology.[3]

Nevertheless, it is visible in these three volumes that he worked very hard and was never satisfied with his previous work. Even the biblical passages are retranslated in his second liturgical publications, which represents a great deal of work that was not necessary.

There are two obvious changes in this work. First, Noli translated the hymns more freely, achieving a perfect setting of the translated text within the Byzantine music, something that did not exist in the first period, since the translation of the text was the primary goal, rather than the musical setting. Noli’s second translations are truly musical.

Second, Noli was not satisfied only with providing a free liturgical translation with priority given to the music. He also translated new services to complete the canon, but also edited these services, shortening some of the Priest’s prayers and abridging many phrases and verses of hymns.

Why did Bishop Noli edit the hymns and the services of his second translations into Albanian? Since music was his priority, it is understandable that in some hymns he was forced to sacrifice the text for the chanting’s sake, but that does not explain all his changes. In the Priest’s prayers there is no connection with music, yet Noli still edited those readings. In Uratore (Service Book) he is justified in saying that he edited these readings and prayers “not only to save money but also because they figure only in the books and are never read in Church.”[4] That is true for some of those readings and prayers but not for all the prayers that Noli shortened and edited.

Since Noli was not a theologian, his vision of the future of Orthodoxy in North America was clearly defined from an ideological perspective, such as issues of language and jurisdiction, but not from a theological one. And Liturgy is an inseparable part of Orthodox theology. He believed that the Orthodox Church in the West would reconsider its liturgical eastern tradition and would make changes in the length and the structure of the services, to adapt itself to the new world. But this did not happen.

Were these translations addressed to the Albanian Community in United States or were they intended even for the Orthodox Church in Albania, which at that time had a canonical Archbishop, despite the political difficulties in the country? It is very difficult to say yes or no, because the prayers commemorating the bishop are not uniform.

In all the translations for the first period, we read “For our Archbishop N…,”[5] relying on each priest to name his bishop, but this is not true in the second set. The latter translations have “For our Archbishop N…,” wherever the local bishop should be commemorated, but there are other places where we read Noli’s name, in a mythical and cultish attribute: “The Most Reverend and Most Blessed Theofan, the Metropolitan of the holy cathedrals of Durrës and Boston, the primate and exarch of holy Illyria, the pilgrim of St George and evangelizer of the Albanians…”[6]

Noli is using here the titles of the Archbishop of Albania, making himself superior to all Albanian Orthodox bishops of that time, albeit by using the incongruous term kryekishë, which he used for Cathedral; for Noli did not read theology.

In this liturgical passage, Bishop Noli is disclosing honestly his psychological state of that period. He is also suggesting how he wants to be remembered in the history of Albania. The ‘Evangelizer’ translates his self-knowledge of an enlightener, a missionary leader who in most cases is an outsider… This was part of his universal role in the history of Albania. Yet he identified himself with his people in order to change and lead them to higher places. Maybe this is one of the reasons why he kept the same peculiar Albanian language all his life, in all his works.

Furthermore in Uratore Noli translated and added the service of Myron, celebrated by the Patriarch.[7] Why did Noli add this service to the canon of the Albanian Liturgy? Albania does not have a Patriarch and the Myron was traditionally given to the Orthodox Church of Albania either by Constantinople, bound by the Tomos of Autocephaly, or, during the Communist regime, by Russia. Who is then the Patriarch of the Albanian Liturgy?

Pointing these theological questions in Noli’s second translations, as part of his changes between the two liturgical periods, we realize how uncontrolled was the translator in the 1940s. He worked without pressure, which was not true for the 1910s.

If we compare the two periods of liturgical translations into Albanian, it seems that the first ones come from a priest who is offering them as prayers to be prayed in Church, while the second come from a bishop to be used by and for himself. But this still cannot explain the paradoxes of the translations from the second period.

The Albanian translations of the second period received limited acceptance and were not recognized by the Church of Albania for use in worship. Even his admirers did not hide their disappointment:

“It is known that no Orthodox Church has ever sacrificed the content for the sake of melody and musical rhythm, and this question has never dominated the liturgical rite. The unity of the liturgical rite is an ancient tradition and one of the main principles of the unity of faith for Eastern Orthodox Church, whose the Orthodox Church of Albania is a member and inseparable part.”[8]

This was the position of the Albanian Synod. These words show how rightfully protective was the Church after reading the second translations. While producing the first translations was an act of language reform by facilitating communication between people and God, the second translations came as a bold liturgical reform with individual nuances.

While Dhimitër Beduli did not comment on the personalization of Noli’s second translations, Bishop Fortino, an Albanian Italian and Greek Catholic, was more critical. When compiling a new version of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, “the Arbëresh translators have put aside some patterns used by Fan Noli in his last translations published in the United States of America. In these texts Noli has followed not just a literary translation, but he has instilled his own things, and has made omissions and changes, without being faithful to the main source.”[9]

However the historical circumstances and the difficulty of liturgical translations into Albanian made Bishop Noli the most useful liturgical translator until recent days. Most Albanian priests prefer the first period’s publications, and they use the second period’s publications only when it is necessary.[10]

The first period’s translations found a better reception because of their historical link with Albanian independence, both political and religious. The second period had no historical connection except to meet liturgical needs in worship and pastoral use. In addition, it was difficult to spread awareness of these publications, since the Communist dictatorship in Albania had begun to isolate and persecute religion, and the publication of these kinds of works was not appreciated as an important contribution to the nation.

The perfect setting in Byzantine Music was the greatest achievement of Noli on his second translations. The personalization and the lack of modern language in this reform did not grant to these books the place they deserved in the Albanian Orthodox literature.

© Foti Cici


[1] Dhimitër Beduli, Gjuha shqipe në Kishë, p.29.

[2] Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Blasco Ibanez, Miguel de Cervantes and Omar Khayyam (based on the English translation of Rubaiyat by Edward Fitzgerald and E. H. Winfield.)

[3] From what has been published of Noli, we cannot find a single reference to Orthodox theology in his writings. In all his ecclesiastical work, Noli published only translations, even for the catechism that he published in both languages. There are several oral traditions among the Albanians in America about his attitude on this matter. When he was asked, “Why don’t you preach about God to the Albanians in your sermons?” (Apparently Noli always had interesting anecdotes—things to make people laugh and think about life, but he emphasized the universal values of morality and not Orthodox spirituality), Bishop Noli said: “To preach about God to the Albanians is like throwing a stone into the ocean.” But others say that he did not preach about religion not because Albanians were not interested on learning about their forefathers’ faith, but because he did not want to make dogmatic mistakes, since he had not studied theology. And nothing in his writings contradicts this oral tradition.

[4] Uratore e Kishεs Orthodokse, Boston, Mass, 1941, p.1.

[5] “Për Kryepeshkopin tonë (aksh),” Librë e Shërbesave të Shënta të Kishës Orthodoxe, kthyer nga gërqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1909, p.66.

[6] This happens in “Regulla e Meshεs Peshkopale” (The Order of Hierarchal Liturgy), Uratore e Kishεs Orthodokse, p. 192.

[7] Uratore e Kishεs Orthodokse, p.231-33.

[8] Dhimitër Beduli, Gjuha shqipe në Kishë, f. 29.

[9] Peshkop Lefter Fortino, “Fan Noli dhe trashigimi arbëresh i Liturgjisë së Shenjtë të Joan Gojartit”, Flamurtari i Kombit, 1982, f. 34.

[10] In the early 1990s, a private Christian publisher in Thessaloniki, Ορθόδοξη Κυψέλη, started to reprint Noli’s liturgical translations of the first period into Albanian, as a missionary effort, but there was a negative reaction from Archbishop Anastasios’ side and the work was stopped on the third book. Furthermore the Chancellor of the OCA Albanian Archdiocese, Fr Arthur Liolin, complained that the Greek publisher should have asked his permission before reprinting Noli’s books… Copyrights for books published in the 1910s, when no Albanian Archdiocese existed? This shows that even for the first period’s translations there is some tolerance for accommodating a specific task of the time, but there is no sincere acceptance of Noli’s work by the Albanian Orthodox Church.

5. NOLI’S ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS

NOLI’S LITURGICAL TRANSLATIONS INTO ENGLISH: 1949 – 1964

When Bishop Noli returned from Europe and began to reorganize the Albanian Orthodox parishes as a single diocese in United States, in the 1930s, he realized that Albanian was no longer the first language.[1] At that time liturgical languages in the United States were mostly foreign and Noli had dreams of “the American Orthodox Church of the future which will unite all Orthodox groups and enable them to fulfill their evangelical mission in the United States of America.”[2]

After a busy life in politics and exile, Noli was struggling to make peace for himself. Before completing the second liturgical translations into Albanian, he published the Eastern Orthodox Prayer Book in English. While the Albanian translations are “a turning point in the history of the Albanian Renaissance” (Faik Konitza), the English translations are the turning point in Bishop Noli’s life.

It is very rare for men like Noli to shift their ideology from strictly national to wider, universal thinking, taking decisions that are completely different from their whole previous work and life: “If we want to keep the young generation in Church we should make painful decisions and use only English in our services.”[3]

Bishop Noli published his English translations from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Although the first books of the English translations were published at the same time as the Albanian translations of the second period, they are different both in ideology, canon and reception. While the Albanian translations are more powerful in their linguistic expression, the English ones are more accurate in their translation of liturgical terms. Let us see two examples.

In the Beatitudes, the verse, “Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι…” (Originally Matthew 5:3) is translated by Noli as “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” which is correct, but in the Albanian version πνεύμα is translated as mind and not spirit: “Lum të varfërit nga mendja…”[4]

In the bilingual publication of the Liturgy, with the English translation across from the Albanian, the same text has used different translations for the term πνεύμα. This helps us to observe that there is no theological misunderstanding of the particular term, since in English the term is given correctly. Why not in Albanian?

In the Albanian translation of Όρθρος in Uratore (p.38), the same term πνεύμα was translated by Noli as mendje, even though there is definitely a different meaning for the same word: “Μεγαλύνει η ψυχή μου τον Κύριον, και ηγαλλίασε το πνεύμα μου επί τω Θεώ τω σωτήρι μου” (Originally Luke 1:46-47). Here we have a critical conflict of the terms ψυχή and πνεύμα in the same verse, which the translator cannot avoid.  In the first Albanian written texts by Gjon Buzuku (1555) and Lekë Matrënga (1592), in Gheg and Tosk dialects respectively, we observe that both clergymen authors use shpirt for both Greek notions. The same with Grigor Gjirokastriti’s  New Testament (1827), until the purist translations of Kristoforidhi, who gave the translation frymë for πνεύμα but alternated with shpirt. Consequently, the problem of these philological questions in Albanian is paradoxically becoming even more challenging with Noli’s non theological definition of mendje (mind).

There is another important example in the Orthodox Creed: The verse “Και εις το Πνεύμα το άγιον … το εκ του Πατρός εκπορευόμενον” (Originally from John 15:26), in Albanian εκπορευόμενον is translated by Noli që dërgohet prej Atit (Librë e Shërbesave, 1909, p.90) and dεrgohet prej Atit (Uratore, 1941, p.81), which means who is sent from the Father, while in his English publications is translated who proceedeth from the Father (Orthodox Prayer Book, p.71), which is dogmatically correct. Of course this translation is taken from Isabel Hapgood’s Service Book[5], but in Albanian Noli had the same opportunity of keeping Kristoforidhi’s biblical translation, which is closer to the wording of Orthodox theology, që del nga Ati – who comes out from the Father.[6]

These two references are sufficient to expose Noli’s superficial connection with theology. This will lead the translator into a strange relationship with music and literature, such as rewording the traditional liturgical phrase “Κύριε ελέησον” into “Lord our God have mercy,” in his English publications. What was missing from “Lord have mercy?”

The order of the services in English was made according to the Slavonic typikon and the musical settings according to the Russian composers, while the Albanian translations follow the Byzantine order and use Byzantine music.

Bishop Noli had visions of a universal Orthodox translation of the Liturgy, but a Byzantine musical setting of the translated text into English would serve only the Byzantine rite’s parishes. Therefore he tried to create a new and uniform liturgical tradition for his parishes, closer to the Russian background. This was an artificial manner of mythmaking tradition, because the Albanians in America did not have any cultural or emotional connection with the Russian world. But he was personally attached to Russian music and tradition:

“The famous French composer, Hector Berlioz, while attending a service at the Imperial Chapel in St. Petersburg, was so moved that he burst into tears and could hardly compose himself for hours afterwards. I had that thrill in 1907, when I first heard the liturgy sung in the Russian Cathedral in New York City. Ever since I have dreamed of giving that wonderful sacred music to any congregation within my reach. I introduced it in my churches both here and in Albania.”[7]

It is well-known that Noli wanted to distance himself from the Greek tradition. But he could not do the same with the Albanian translations because the Albanian Church at that time had a solid Byzantine background, and this cultural connection between Byzantine culture and Albania is clear even in the folk tradition.[8]

Slavonic and Russian models were closer to Noli’s ideological inspiration but were as well closer to the western music, comparing to the Byzantine music. Bishop Noli wanted to create a new Orthodox Western tradition for the Liturgy, using Church music with Russian and some “Byzantine” motifs.

Beside his personal artistic taste, there were also political dimensions. Since the Patriarchate of Constantinople considered Noli as uncanonical, it would be the American Orthodox Church supported by the Russian Patriarchate that will recognize him. It did not happen in his days though. It happened after his death, in 1972, when the Russian ‘Metropolia’ recognized his successor and his diocese as a part of the newly named Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

While the Albanian translations are strictly liturgical, the English ones are not. He did not publish any Festal Menaion, or Lenten Book or Easter Book in English, but he did translate the New Testament and the Psalms, which he did not translate into Albanian. It seems that Bishop Noli gave emphasis to the Sunday Liturgy and not to the major daily feasts, as in Albanian. From this perspective his biblical translations are liturgical tools.

Although he translated and published many readings of the Gospel and the Epistles in his Orthodox Prayer Book, he later compiled two books of Gospel and Epistle readings. Not only is the length of these readings different from the previous work, but so also is the translation itself and the language. And after these two Lectionaries for liturgical use Noli turned and retranslated the whole New Testament, after reconsidering his style of expression in modern English.

Bishop Noli’s work in English, apart from his catechism, can be separated into three parts: Liturgy, biblical translations and musical compositions. However there is no distinction between liturgical and biblical translation by Noli, because all his English translations were destined for liturgical use, including the New Testament and the Psalms.

And of course his musical books are the musical settings of his liturgical translations, music being an inseparable part of worship, interpreting the theological notions and human emotions of the Byzantine hymns. Thus, the compositions of church music cannot be included with his secular musical works, or they must be counted on both sides.

Were Bishop Noli’s liturgical translations good enough to be used beyond the Albanian Orthodox Church in America? It is problematic that while his books were dedicated to the whole Orthodox community in the United States, the translator’s name is the only person to be commemorated as an Archbishop in his liturgical translations, which is not true even of the Albanian translations of the second period.

Why did Noli change the practice of Hapgood, whose Service Book and put “For our Most Reverend Archbishop Theophan” in the commemoration, instead of “Our Archbishop N.”? Even if the Albanian Orthodox Church in America were the only Church to use these translations, Noli at that time was in his seventies, and he knew that in the Orthodox Liturgy the priest commemorates the living bishop of the Church. I do not believe that Noli hoped that his books would be used only in his time.

And as in the Albanian translations of the second period we have here the same paradox of his title as the primate of the Albanian Church and his cult in Liturgy: “To thee, O Theophan, Metropolitan Bishop of the sees of Boston and Durazzo, exarch of Holy Illyria, pilgrim of Saint George, evangelizer of Albania, our Father and our Prelate, God grant thee long life…”[9]

We observe that in the English version the word kryetarit (the President or Primate) of Uratore (p. 192) is omitted before the exarch, which shows that Noli is aware of the nuances of his title in both languages. And yet he failed…   

Bishop Noli expressed his opinion about the structure that the ‘American Orthodox Patriarchate’ should have and he thought that the Russian Metropolitan Leon would be the new Patriarch.[10] But why did Bishop Noli put down his name as the only celebrating hierarch in his English translations? Did he see the acceptance and use of his liturgical translations by other Orthodox Churches as a sign that others would recognize him as a canonical bishop? From a practical point of view, the use of his name in his liturgical translations, both in English and Albanian, does not seem uniform and has no rational interpretation.

Noli did not achieve the same success in English as in his Albanian liturgical translations. We do not find in his English publications the intensive, systematic, detailed, original and fine work of the Albanian translations. Nevertheless Noli’s English translations were useful at that time because since the publication by the Episcopalian Isabel F. Hapgood of the Service Book the Orthodox liturgical translations in North America were rare.

The English translations are very helpful for a comparative and careful reading of Noli’s Liturgy. Yet, those who will conclude on the translator’s English publications without studying the Albanian liturgical translations will know very little of Fan S. Noli…

 

SUMMARY

1. Bishop Fan S. Noli’s liturgical translations have not been researched by the Orthodox Church in Albania because of political reasons, which have been inforced by Albanian and Greek nationalist ideologies. This inherited attitude has imposed suspicion, fear and silence about Noli in the field of Albanian-Greek studies. Furthermore, the consequences of an atheist dictatorship in the Albanian cultural tradition, the absence of Religious Studies in Albania, the ignorance of Liturgical Greek and Byzantine Music by Albanian scholars, and the ignorance of Albanian language by Greek scholars, have made it impossible to produce interdisciplinary works including the Albanian liturgical translations. In addition, there is no theological engagement in the Albanian Orthodox Community in the United States, where Noli is increasingly worshiped and never studied.

2. Noli knew liturgical Greek and Byzantine music very well, but he did not have the same flexibility in Albanian. Furthermore, he did not have a philological and theological background. The translator faced additional difficulties on writing in a language without a modern literary tradition. From his initial sub-dialectal writing of the first book, Noli jumped quickly to a consistent dialectal style (Tosk) which became a unique literary school in the Albanian language. His own terminology was based partly on Kristoforidhi’s tradition, but it was mostly influenced by modern terminology from the Romance languages, especially from French.

3. The liturgical translations of the first period (1908-14) were a consequence of the nationalist movement for the independence of Albania, and a condition for organizing an Albanian Orthodox Church in North America, with the prospective of establishing a National Church in Albania. This translation period coincided with Noli’s ordination and his undergraduate studies at Harvard University. At the same time, Fr. Noli was struggling to build his persona in Albanian letters and politics. The liturgical translations were not a priority but part of the busiest period of Noli’s life.

These translations were rendered in a literal basis, putting priority to the word rather than the musical setting, giving thus an Orthodox character to these texts. This was an ideological compromise between the ordained translator and the textual mentality of the Orthodox Church, although Noli’s style for the rest of his translations was for a free translation style.

The Greek Orthodox Church condemned the Albanian liturgical translations with the pretext of ‘having dogmatic mistakes.’ These works were also criticized by puritan Albanian scholars for their ‘enterprising’ spirit of creating a ‘Latinized’ terminology in the Albanian language against Kristoforidhi’s tradition in Tosk. Yet most Albanian intellectuals of that time had praised these texts for their poetic and strong expression of language. Although the Albanian Church did not accept the first translations officially, it did use them for decades as the only source of liturgical texts in Albanian. In 1930s Albania, Noli’s Orthodox works were equal to tradition.    

4. The liturgical translations of the second period (1941-52) did not have the same historical importance. With these translations Bishop Noli wanted to complete his liturgical canon in Albanian liturgy, translating additional services but what is new here is that Noli edited and shortened the hymns and the priest’s readings. The style here is a ‘Nolian’, free translation, and the priority is the musicality of the text, giving a perfect Byzantine setting to the hymns, sacrificing though the word which is the priority in Orthodox worship. The language and the chosen terminology, unfortunately, are almost the same with the first period’s translations.

These publications were translated for the Albanian Church in America and the homeland, but the commemoration of the translator’s name, as Primate of Albanian Church in America and, to some extension, of the Church of Albania, creates a non-uniform liturgical phenomenon and this is the paradox in Noli’s work. The Orthodox Church of Albania did not accept these publications for use in worship. Furthermore, Albanian theologians in Albania and Italy have expressed disappointment and disagreement with the ideology and the personalisation of these translations.   

5. The English translations (1949-64) are liturgical and biblical. In these publications there is no coherent structure and the translator did not create a liturgical canon as in the Albanian translations. Furthermore, these translations are different in their philosophy, because Noli is creating a Liturgy with Russian background both in the typikon and its musical settings.

The English translations are less original and do not have a uniform language style. In addition, in order to give priority to the music, Bishop Noli made many changes to the text. Theologically though the English translations, in comparison to the Albanian translations, have better interpretations of the liturgical terms. However, Noli’s name as a hierarch to be commemorated in these books poses the same paradox as in the Albanian translations of the second period.

* * *


This paper is the first study of Fan S. Noli’s liturgical translations. As a graduate of both Theology and Byzantine Music, and having studied and researched the three languages of this field (Albanian, Greek and English), I was privileged to investigate Bishop Noli’s works. However, there were two main obstacles: the incomplete bibliography on Noli, and the lack of any previous work on this topic.

Important and extensive material exists in Noli’s library in Boston MA but the Liolin family refused entrance to archives.

Much unpublished information about Noli was sent after his death to Albania and is available in different archives in Tirana, but I have not had the opportunity to review them.

Noli’s library in Boston contains information that the Albanian scholars who conducted research there did not have the interest, or the necessary background, to study and publish. For example, I am not sure what Greek liturgical books Bishop Noli used for his translations in both languages. The only piece of information, which has not been authenticated, is that of Dhimitër Beduli who believes that Noli used the third edition of Karyofylli’s Service Book (Athens 1896) for his first Service Book (1909).[11]

Furthermore, not having the opportunity to use the original sources, I have used for my research the Albanian publications of Bishop Noli’s collected works (Vepra), especially his articles and his correspondence, but neither of these sources is complete. (In all these publications of Noli’s works, no liturgical translation was included.)

The articles in the two first volumes of Noli’s works have undergone censorship because they were published under the Communist dictatorship. Indeed, some were not published at all; texts with religious nuances were the first to be eliminated or edited by the Albanian Communist publisher. The same problem exists for Noli’s interviews and other writings, published in the first five volumes of his works. (In addition, in these works some forms of Noli’s style have been adapted to standard Albanian, which engages the Albanian reader more effectively but does not help me on searching for original source material).

There is more material with the correspondence because it was published after the political changes in Albania; it is the sixth and last volume of Noli’s collected works. But this is only part of thousands of Bishop Noli’s letters, which exist only in Noli’s Library in Boston, MA, and the religious references did not have any priority for the publisher or the readers, unless there was an interesting connection with historical and national events.

I did not find these letters authentic, since many of those have been written originally in English and I am using here the Albanian translations, translating back into English with care and sensitivity but not with exactitude since I was translating translations.  I used my intuition to approach different nuances pertaining to Noli’s ecclesiastic language. A serious vacuum in Noli’s published correspondence is the one-side aspect of these letters, since all this material is the correspondence written and sent by Noli and not by and to Noli, as my research wanted to be.

It might have helped my research if I would have had the opportunity to find Noli’s collected works that were published in Kosova in late 1960s.

Although this study was not pursued with solid bibliographical sources, I do believe that I am offering this paper as an introduction for further study on Noli’s liturgical work, which is an important field of Greek-Albanian studies. This is the reason that the Albanian translations had the priority in this paper. 

© Foti Cici

The current revised study was written originally in 2001 as an academic paper (Ohio State University, Greek & Latin Department.) Two simplified versions in English and Albanian have been published in 2001 and 2003 in the United States  and Albania. A longer and improved version can be found in my book in Albanian, Between Albanianness and Greekness, Tirana 2006. [Midis shqiptarësisë dhe grekësisë - nga bujtja e Nolit te zhvarrosjet e Përmetit]    



[1] The Service of Commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion of he Harvard class of 1912, Harvard College, Memorial Church, June 13, 1962, cited from Vepra 6, p. 633.

[2] Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Three Liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Boston, Mass, 1955, p.5.

[3] Metropolitan Theofan S. Noli on the American Orthodox Church, (Tape), delivered in Bridgeport Conn, December 16, 1956.

[4] Bishop F. S. Noli, Liturgy and Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church – in Albanian and English, Boston, Mass, 1955, p. 60.

[5] The first two editions which Noli used for his translations: Hapgood Isabel Florence, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic (Greco-Russian) Church, New York 1906 and Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (Revised version), New York 1922. Her Service Book has been republished recently and has been accepted by the Orthodox Churches in America, especially the Antiochian, as an Orthodox liturgical tool for worship, although it is older than Bishop Noli’s Prayer Book. About Hapgood as a translator of Liturgy and of Russian literature into English see, Stuart Hoke, “A Generally Obscure Calling: A Character Sketch of Isabel Hapgood,” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 45 2001, No.1, p.25-55.

[6] Dhimitër Beduli, Gjuha shqipe në Kishë, p.31.

[7] Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Eastern Orthodox Hymnal, The Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1951, p. iii. Although Noli imposed his personal preference as the collective expression of the Church, he did not dare to set his Albanian translations to the same music, though he did bring to Albania a Russian choir, while he was Metropolitan of Durrës and Prime Minister. See Eno Koço, “Mesha shqip,” Drita, February 17, 1991.

[8] This question was first posed by the scholar and linguist Eqrem Çabej (“Për gjenezën e literaturës shqipe,” Hylli i Dritës, 1938-39, republished in Shqiptarët midis Perëndimit dhe Lindjes, p.46, Tiranë 1994) and by Albanian musicologists, who have noticed that there are similarities between Byzantine and Albanian folk music, though they have come to no conclusion in their studies.

[9] Orthodox Prayer Book, p.62

[10] “Letter to His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Leon,” Fort Lauderdale, Florida, January 14, 1957, cited in Vepra 6, p. 492-93 (Translated into Albanian).

[11] Dhimitër Beduli, Gjuha shqipe në Kishë, p.32-33.

______________________________________________

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Albanian liturgical translations

First period:

Shërbes e Javës së Madhe, kethyer nga grecishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1908.

Librë e Shërbesave të Shënta të Kishës Orthodoxe, kthyer nga gërqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1909.

Libre e të  Kremteve të Mëdha të Kishës Orthodoxe, kthyer nga greqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1911.

Triodi i Vogël, kthyer nga greqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli Boston, Mass, 1913.

Lutjesorja, e kthyer nga greqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1914.

Pesëdhjetore e Vogël, e kthyer nga greqishtja prej Priftit Orthodox Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1914.

 

Second period:

Uratore e Kishεs Othodokse, e Pεrktheu Imzot Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1941.

Kremtore e Kishεs Othodokse, e Pεrktheu Imzot Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1947.

Triodi dhe Pesëdhjetorja, e Përktheu Imzot Fan S. Noli, Boston, Mass, 1952.

Bishop Noli’s English translations

Liturgy:

Orthodox Prayer Book (The Eastern Orthodox Prayer Book), Compiled by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1949.

Pocket Prayer Book (Eastern Orthodox Pocket Prayer Book), Compiled by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1954.

Three Liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Translated by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1955.

Liturgical biblical translations:

Gospel Lectionary of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Translated by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Ph.D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1956.

Epistle Lectionary of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Translated by Archbishop Fan Stylian Noli, PH. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1957.

New Testament and Psalms:

The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Translated into English from the approved Greek text of the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Greece), by Metropolitan Fan S. Noli, Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1961.

The Poet of Nazareth (a revised version of the Gospel of St. Matthew with a rhythmical translation of the sayings and parables of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ), by the Metropolitan Fan S. Noli, Ph. D., Boston, Mass, 1962.

The Psalms (A metrical English Version translated from the original Hebrew diligently compared with the Greek Septuagint and other translations), by Metropolitan Fan S. Noli, Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1964.

Musical publications

Hymnore, Compiled by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston Mass, 1936 (In Albanian).

Eastern Orthodox Hymnal, Compiled by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Mus. B., Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston Mass, 1951.

Byzantine Hymnal, Compiled by Metropolitan Fan S. Noli, Mus. B., Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1959.

Catechism:

Eastern Orthodox Catechism, Translated and arranged by Bishop Fan Stylian Noli, Ph. D., Published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1954.

Liturgy and Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church (in Albanian and English), Translated by Bishop F. S. Noli, published by the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1955.

FURTHER BIBLIOGRAPHY

Albanian

Akademia e Shkencave-Instituti i Historisë, 70 vjet të Kishës Ortodokse Autoqefale të Shqipërisë (70th Anniversary of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania), Tiranë 1993.

Aleksandër Xhuvani, “Puna e fjalës mysterion” (About the word “mysterion”) Shkrepëtima, Kairo, March 5, 1911.

Arben Puto, Demokracia e rrethuar (The surrounded democracy), Tiranë, 8 Nëntori 1990.

Behar Shtylla, Fan Noli, siç e kam njohur (Fan Noli, as I knew him), Tiranë, Dituria 1997.

Dhimitër Beduli, Gjuha shqipe në kishë (The Albanian language in Church), Tiranë 1997.

Historia e Kishës Ortodokse të Shqipërisë – Gjer në vitin 1944, Tiranë 1992.

Efthim Dodona, Noli i panjohur (The unknown Noli), Tiranë, Shtëpia botuese “Enciklopedike” 1996.

Eno Koço, “Mesha shqip” (The Liturgy in Albanian), Drita, February 17, 1991.

Eqrem Çabej, Shqiptarët midis Perëndimit dhe Lindjes (The Albanians between the West and the East), Tiranë 1994

Fan S. Noli, Albumi (Poetry), Boston, Mass, 1948.

Fan S. Noli (Collected works):

                 Vepra 1 (Poetry, drama and world poetry translation), Academia of Sciences of Socialist and Popular Republic of Albania, Institute of Literature and Linguistics, Tiranë 1988.

                 Vepra 2, (Articles 1905-25), Tiranë 1987.

                 Vepra 3 (Articles 1925-49), Tiranë 1987.

                 Vepra 4 (Historical writings), Tiranë 1989.

                 Vepra 5 (Critical essays), Tiranë 1988.

                Vepra 6, (Speeches, Autobiography, Correspondence, Interviews), Academia of Sciences of Republic of Albania, Institute of Literature and Linguistics, edited by Prof. Dr. Nasho Jorgaqi, Tiranë 1996.

Fatmir Agalliu, Gjuha e Nolit në veprat origjinale të tij (Noli’s language in his original works), Tiranë, Toena 1999.

Lasgush Poradeci, Vepra I-II, Tiranë, Onufri 1999.

Lefter Fortino, Bishop, “Fan Noli dhe trashigimi arbëresh i Liturgjisë së Shenjtë të Joan Gojartit,” Flamurtari i Kombit, p.30-38.

Mimoza Nano, Fan Noli – Bibliografi (Me anotacion), Universiteti i Tiranës, Fakulteti Histori-Filologji, Tiranë 1980 (Unpublished).

Nasho Jorgaqi, Udhëtim me Fan Nolin (A biographical journal with Fan Noli), Tiranë, Dituria 1994.

English

Elsie Robert, Dictionary of Albanian Literature, Greenwood Press, New York 1986,

                     History of Albanian Literature, Volume I-II, Social Science Monographs, Boulder, New York 1995,

“Albanian literature in Greek script: The 18th – and the early 19th – century Orthodox tradition in Albanian writing,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Vol. 15 (1991) 20-34.  

Hapgood Isabel Florence, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic (Greco-Russian) Church, New York 1906.

Hapgood Isabel Florence, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (Revised version), New York 1922.

Hoke Stuart H, “A Generally Obscure Calling: A Character sketch of Isabel Hapgood,” ST Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 45 2001, No.1, p.25-55.

Edwin Jacques, The Albanians: An  Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Jefferson NC, 1995.

Logos, A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, Volume 39, 1998, No. 2-4, “Papers and Discussions of the International Symposium on English Translations of Byzantine Liturgical Texts-Part 1.”

Noli Fan S., Bishop, Beethoven and the French Revolution, International University Press, New York 1947.

Noli, Fan S., Metropolitan, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Boston, Mass, 1960.

Greek:

Γλαβίνα Αποστόλου, Η Ορθόδοξη Αυτοκέφαλη Εκκλησία της Αλβανίας, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1998, Δ’ έκδοση.

Τζορτζάτου Βαρνάβα, Μητροπολίτου Κίτρους, Η Αυτοκέφαλος Ορθόδοξος Εκκλησία της Αλβανίας και οι βασικοί θεσμοί διοικήσεως αυτής, Εν Αθήναις 1975.

Σούλη Χ. Ι. “Φαν Νόλι,” Μεγάλη Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαιδεία, τόμος 23ος, σ.818-20.

1. Militantizmi shqiptar

nene-tereza1Për shumicën tonë tema “shqiptarët dhe krishtërimi” është çoroditëse në shqipen e pasdiktaturës. Ka dy harqe të mëdha, njëra histori e vjetër dhe tjetra e re, të cilat çojnë në të njëjtin qark, ashtu siç ka dhe dy marrje të mëdha, njëra e intelektualëve dhe tjetra e nacionalistëve, përsëri të shkrira mënjësh.


Sidoqoftë, për ata që kanë pak nder e kripë kjo temë zanon e ftillohet në banalitet, në një kohë kur për shumicën e intelektualëve shqiptarë tema rreh si zonë ndërdisiplinimi akademik, përplotësimi social, përmbushjeje patriotike dhe madje realizimi personal, edhe pse tepër bajate vitet e fundit.


Guxoj ta nis këtë ese me bindjen se tema e rrokur sot iu është shtuar temave seksuale për shumicën e intelektualëve shqiptarë: pavarësisht se ç’thonë vetmevete a me njëri-tjetrin shqiptarët privatisht, gjë që për shumë mbulon pjesën dërrmuese të cilësisë së tyre menduese e prodhuese, në publik duhet bërë ndryshe, për t’u shtirur e fshehur. Sepse seksualiteti është tema më politike në kulturën e sotme shqiptare.


Ja imagjinoni, për parantezë, një shoqëri shqiptare, një letërsi kombëtare, një mendimtari tonën, sidomos, me një përqasje më njerëzore të seksualitetit… Qameti! (Turp për kulturën tonë kjo, sepse përndryshe Shqipëria do të prodhonte më pak prostituta e prostitutë).


Njësoj, sado skandaloze për dëgjesën tonë, është dhe historizimi dhe doktrinimi i çështjes së shqiptarëve me krishtërimin, sidomos duke i mohuar debatin e ndershëm, sepse po na fytyron një mendimtari ndryshe, një kanon tjetër në kulturën shqiptare, një të vërtetë të rreme, një të rreme të madhe, duke shtyrë vonesa në ndërgjegjësimin e shqiptarit të sotëm, duke shtirë turp e frikë, që shqiptarët të druhen më tepër të ndryshojnë si njerëz, kur dihet se në historinë kulturore ndryshimet janë fillimisht vetjake dhe pastaj grupore.


Për brezin tim kjo temë, e shqiptarëve me krishtërimin, ishte fare e panjohur, duke ngjallur kësisoj pak kërshëri e më pak respekt në fillimivet 90, por ja që tanimë ka dalë fare jashtë kontrollit të arsyes, duke e humbur shenjën dhe përmbajtjen e emrit.


Tema e shqiptarëve në krishtërim, a e krishtërimit ndër shqiptarë, rreket në gjithçka historike, filologjike a folklorike, por asnjëherë në përmasën kryesore, e cila gjithmonë kapërcehet, me elegancë nga të hollët dhe me naivitet nga të tjerët: vështirësia kulturore e shqiptarit për të pranuar doktrinat dhe filozofinë e krishtërimit, pa të cilat nuk mund të ketë kthim a konvertim të një populli. Nuk qëllohet atje ku dhemb, pra, tek ato bindje, besore e shprehi të hekurta që e bëjnë të pamundur krishtëzimin e shqiptarëve, por ngjizet një gropë e madhe në letra, me një vrimë të zezë në qerthull.


Shumica e intelektualëve tanë, nga çka shkruajnë, besojnë në krishtërimin e shqiptarëve shtetas, por pa krishtëzimin e shqiptarëve njerëz. Besojnë në religjionin e lakmuar perëndimor (sipas tyre kjo kahje), por pa fenë e këtij religjioni, e cila nuk është dhe aq perëndimore, e kështu tatëpjetë…

Vetëm se teorikët fekthyes shqiptarë, autorë të mëdhenj e aktivistë jo të vegjël, nuk na thonë diçka: Cila është arsyeja (pengesa) kryesore për këtë plan kaq të vonuar? Sepse po bëhen pothuaj njëzet vjet që kur e lëçitën doktrinën e tyre dhe shumë prej subjekteve shqiptare po ikin për në botën tjetër – ku shkojnë vallë? - pa ditur se ç’do të bëhet me ne, jo me ata…


A janë institucionet e krishtërimit jashtë a brenda Shqipërisë vonuesit e mëdhenj?
A mos vallë po na sabotojnë fqinjët grekë e serbë?
Apo mos është shteti (laik) shqiptar që e shtyn? Apo mos janë shpenzimet që mund t’i dalin shtetit shqiptar prej një pagëzimi/banjëzimi masiv të shtetasve?

Përse intelektualët e predikimit të kthimeve, në shumicën e tyre ateistë, të mos ua thonë bashkëkohësve troç arsyen e moskonvertimit të shqiptarëve në Krishtërim? Nëse e kanë të vështirë ta pikasin, le ta nisin nga vetja, tani që janë në këmbë dhe i kanë katërqind…


Konflikti i jetës dhe mendimtarisë shqiptare me një jetë dhe mendimtari Tjetër është një e pamundur, aq e atillë saqë ka krijuar trazira të mëdha shpirtërore ndër autorë e aktivistë shqiptarë, i ka bërë të pendohen sa e sa herë për tezën e tyre të pamundur, pastaj i ka errësuar t’i kthehen prapë vetes, e pastaj prapë në erë, duke mos e shkëputur dot veten nga letrat (ideologjemat kolektive) shqipe, domethënë duke e çuar mendimtarinë e këtij brezi një një rreth vicioz, që të vazhdojmë të besojmë në një ëndërr të pamundur.


Unë them se vetëm ky fakt, pamundësia e intelektualëve shqiptarë për ta shkoqitur problemin mbas kaq vjetësh dështimi, ngërçi për të reflektuar publikisht mbi një të pamundur në kulturë, vetë kjo është një përgjigje e kthjellët. Po pse ashtu?


Kemi nevojë të flasim mbi këtë temë. Ju lutem shumë! Duhet folur jo vetëm se tema e shqiptarëve në krishtërim ka shkaktuar viktima në letrat e këtij brezi, por se predikuesit e një feje të pamundur iu kanë mohuar të vërtetën shqiptarëve, duke ruajtur për vete pozita që vijnë ndesh bash me mënyrën e jetesës që këta iu sugjerojnë të shumtëve. Jemi dëshmimtarë se thirrjet që iu bëhen shqiptarëve të konvertohen në krishtërim janë një copë e politikës së pacipë shqiptare.


Shumica e intelektualëve të këtij brezi mohojnë qëllimisht problemin që kushtëzon një kontakt të mirëfilltë kulturor: ndeshjen e një kulture antikristiane me krishtërimin.


Si ka mundësi që një e pamundur e tillë, siç është krishtërimi për shqiptarët e sotëm në grup, të synohet si ëndërr për të gjithë? Cila shoqëri e kultivuar beson e synon politikisht ëndrra të tilla? (A e shihni se ku na kanë çuar?)


Përveç disa çasteve në rrahjet shkrimore të dy-tre intelektualëve shqiptarë, pjesa dërrmuese e temës mbi shqiptarët dhe krishtërimin i shmanget si djalli temjamit të vërtetës tejkaluese, jo asaj naives dhe spekullatives se “krishtërimi nuk ka hedhur rrënjë ndër shqiptarë”, por kësaj të sotmes që ishte dje e do të jetë dhe nesër, se diskursi mbi përballjen e shqiptarëve me krishtërimin e ekspozon kulturën shqiptare në themel, sfidon ngrehinën tonë nacional-komuniste, nën hijen e së cilës mbahemi sot si komb dhe shoqëri, dhe përmbys simbolet institucionale të krenarisë shqiptare (nderi, besa, e dokrrat e tjera), pikërisht sepse i përkthen ato… Lakuriq!


Që të flasë dikush sot mbi këtë temë me ndershmëri dhe ndjeshmëri, domethënë tejet traditës së sotme historike e filologjike shqiptare, e përtej aleancave politike të bëra a të shpresuara, nuk ka rrugë tjetër veçse të pranojë lakuriqësinë e së vërtetës, tek me pështymat shqiptare, se kontakti shqiptaro-kristian është i pamundur pikërisht se është çështje e një mentaliteti grupor tmerrësisht të fuqishëm, prandaj dhe në shmangie e kurrë në shtjellim. Kushdo që do të flasë ndryshe mbi këtë temë do të përbaltet, do të urrehet e do të anatemohet. Sepse thotë të vërtetën!


Janë tepër të rralla konvertimet e sinqerta të myslimanëve shqiptarë, ato raste që i kundërvihen kësaj të vërtete me hirin e së Vërtetës. E them këtë me përgjegjësi e çmim. Të interesuarit duan të na bëjnë të besojmë se jemi qorra, sepse ashtu na duan. I kemi veç sytë katër, dhe jemi pjesë e një bote kaq të vogël shqiptare ku e njohim mirë njëri-tjetrin.


Dihet mirë se me çfarë motivesh ekonomike, politike e emocionale po luhet një lojë kaq e rrezikshme për historinë e një populli; në një territor historikisht të përdorur…


Është pikërisht mendësia e ngurtë e shumicës dërrmuese shqiptare ajo që e thellon humnerën me krishtërimin dhe, meqë i duan bashkë, me mënyrën perëndimore: urrejtja brendashqiptare, racizmi brendashqiptar, mospranimi e keqtrajtimi i tjetrit shqiptar, diskriminimi i të tjerëve shqiptarë, pamundësia për të pranuar natyrën njerëzore me emocionet, kërkesat dhe larminë e saj, për të mos shkuar pastaj tek qëndrimet dhe bindjet e shqiptarëve si grup ndaj kombësive dhe racave të tjera, ndaj kafshëve, ndaj natyrës… E të tjera.


Kjo mendësi shqiptare është kaq sfiduese saqë ka krijuar një tru kolektiv; lëvizjet publike në botën shqiptare bëhen si të kompjuterizuara, prandaj dhe dëshirat shqiptare, sidomos në rrekjet me krishtërimin si filozofi publike, nuk kërkohen fare, as përfillen kur shpërthejnë, por i blatohen altarit të trurit kolektiv, duke i shenjtëruar marrëzitë.


Është militantizmi i famshëm shqiptar…

1. Kulti i Janullatosit në statutin e ri

If you’re not annoying somebody, you’re not really alive
-
Margaret Atwood 

U mbush një vit që nga fuqizimi i statutit të ri të Kishës Ortodokse Autoqefale të Shqipërisë – nëntor 2006. A e keni lexuar ju statutin e ri? A keni dëgjuar, të paktën, të shkruhet diçka, qoftë dhe një artikull alla shqiptarçe mbi këtë tekst në parashtrime gjysmak, por në përmbajtje të tmerrshëm për të ardhmen e ortodoksisë shqiptare?

Atëherë, pyes, si ka mundësi që në botën shqiptare ngjallen së vdekurish fytyra fisnike që s’kanë qenë kurrë të atilla, marrin mish e kockë fantazma përndryshe të urryera të historisë sonë, thirren me zërin e turmës fuqiplote vdekatarë të farës sonë, për t’u përjetësuar enkas si heronj të shqipove, apo, që t’i biem mu në kokë, fryhen si tullumbace e ngrihen me akullin funeral të kombit tekste si ai i statutit ortodoks të vitit 1929, por, me gjithë këto marrëzi, pra, heshtet urtësisht mbi statutin e ri të komunitetit ortodoks, i cili është teksti më antivendor që ka imponuar ndonjëherë ortodoksia?

Athua të jetë thjesht neglizhencë që, edhe mbasi një viti, statuti i ri nuk është botuar ende në gazetën zyrtare të KOASH-it, siç praktikohet kjo në kishat autoqefale? Sepse kur bëhen ndryshime ligjvënëse në një komunitet ortodoks, gjë që është më se normale për jetën kanunore të një kishe të gjallë, ato bëhen për t’i përqafuar e zbatuar anëtarët, e jo për t’ua fshehur e mbuluar atyre.

Sa të mëdha janë kleçkat dhe hilet e këtij teksti guximtar në marrëdhëniet shqiptaro-greke? Për më tutje, si ka mundësi që kryepeshkopata e Tiranës nuk harron të publikojë në sitin e saj edhe faktet më të rëndomta të jetës personale të kryepeshkopit, ndonjëherë të përmasës banale, si dekorimi i Tij në një shkollë bujqësore në Greqi, a vdekja e njërit prej gjirikëve të Tij në Athinë, por nuk publikohet në faqen zyrtare të KOASH-it statuti i ri? Në fakt, atje nuk janë publikuar as statutet e kaluara, duke na e ngarkuar ne modestëve atë barrë, në ShqiptarOrtodoks.com.

Statuti u përpilua në mënyrë private dhe anonime, sepse në kësi rastesh krijohen komisione me teologë e juristë të kishës, klerikë e laikë, të cilët punojnë nën përkujdesjen e Sinodit, derisa arrihet në draftin përfundimtar, para se t’i ushtrohet debatit dhe votimit. Madje ka raste kur drafti kthehet për plotësime e ndryshime të domosdoshme, sepse është krijesë njerëzore prandaj dhe asnjëherë e përkryer. Cilët klerikë dhe laikë përbënin komisionin e hartimit të Statutit? Mister!

Është fakt se Statuti u miratua pa kaluar në procesin e rrahjes dhe plotësimit të tekstit në asamble, siç ndodh rëndom në kishat e tjera autoqefale. Kjo tradhtohet edhe në luhatjet e frikshme gjuhësore (kuptimore e drejtshkrimore) të dokumentuara në këtë statut. Për më keq, fakti se statuti i ri u miratua pa asnjë rezistencë nga kleri dhe përfaqësuesit laikë të famullive, është farefisnor me fenomenin tjetër, me vizitën e presidentit amerikan në Shqipëri: përveç vjedhjes së orës, nuk pati asnjë reagim qytetar kundër politikave antidemokratike të presidencës së Bushit, ndryshe nga ç’ndodhi në vende më pak të prapambetura se Shqipëria.  

Statuti u shkrua, u përkthye, u miratua dhe u fuqizua pa lejuar asnjë debat, pa e votuar fare, sepse në thelb miratimi “njëzëri” (Neni 70, 2006), nën një frymë trysnie të shumëfishtë, nën terrorin shpirtëror që ushtron Janullatosi ndaj klerit dhe besimtarëve, nuk është votim. Jo dhe jo! 

Statuti i fundit i kishës ortodokse në Shqipëri është një tekst për të cilin vlen të bëhet një studim nga teologët dhe studiuesit tanë. Duhet krahasuar ky statut jo vetëm me statutet e mëparshme, por dhe me statutet e e tjera të kishave autoqefale, si dhe me të drejtën kishtare të ortodoksisë.

Bllokimi nga kryepeshkopi Anastasios i një përfshirjeje akademike në studimet shqiptare ortodokse, me mundësi të plota bibliografike e praktike, nuk mjafton për t’u tërhequr nga detyrimet tona si pjesëtarë të gjallë të ortodoksisë shqiptare. Përndjekjet dhe kanosjet e një misioni parakishtar nuk kanë fuqi të mpijnë intuitën tonë kishtare dhe detyrimin për të reaguar kur zhbëhet karakteri vendor i Kishës.   

Në këta kapituj, atëherë, do të rroken pikat më rrëshqitëse të statutit të ri, jo nen për nen, sesa problem për problem. Do të zbardhen ngjyresat e mëdha politike, do të kallëzohet shpengimi i madh i zotit Janullatos, jashtë delikatesës dhe tërthorizmave me të cilat desh na u njësua përgjatë rrëmujës së pasdiktaturës. Do të shohim edhe një herë se pa kultin e Janullatosit një dokument i tillë bie në mosqenie, tingëllon absurd, ashtu siç është në thelb, ndërsa nën hijen e këtij kulti të ri grek paudhësia përnjimendsh çiltërohet dhe kanonizohet si e mbarë.  

Ky debat hapet me përgjegjësinë për të bezdisur kultin e Janullatosit, për të irrituar sëmundjen e lavdisë. Ata që e njohin mirë dinë se këto janë çastet më të tejdukshme të shërbesës së tij në Shqipëri, atëherë kur improvizimi çalon dhe shfaqet njeriu. Bezdisja e atij që zëvendëson Zotin në ndërgjegjjen e anëtarëve të Kishës, ndërsa i shkel, i abuzon e i manipulon ata, është shenjë jete në spiritualitetin ortodoks. Është madje një nga prirjet e thirrjet në jetën e krishterë. “Nëse nuk bezdis dikë, nuk je vërtet i gjallë”…