We are going to hear the name Barabbas a bit during Holy Week this coming week, especially on Thursday and Friday during the Gospel readings. He is the character whom the crowd wants released by Pilate during the “passover pardon” instead of Jesus, whom Pilate sees as innocent. The usual English or at least American English pronunciation of Barabbas is something like berABis, with the stress on the second a. When I read these passages, I make a point to pronounce it Bar Abbas, breaking it into three equally-emphasized syllables. This is to accentuate the fact that it is not just an Assyrian (or Aramaic, or Syriac – take your term of choice for what is the same language) word but one that clearly means son (bar) of the father (abbas – there is no definite article in Assyrian). The word play is obvious – Barabbas is a false messiah and Christ of course is the real thing. The crowd doesn’t get it and wants the false messiah released to them. This is pretty straightforward, but there are other possibilities of translations that stem from the imperfections of transliterating from Semitic languages to Greek (and English) that help us color out the meaning of Barabbas’s name in a way that can help us understand the story better, not unlike the way the Rabbinical writings expand scriptural stories for the same purpose. Let’s keep the “bar” for what it is – son of, in this construct – and look at “abbas”. We are told directly in the New Testament that Abba – a term Jesus uses to address his father – means father, and this is indeed true – the root is the same in all Semitic languages, with an alef – actually a glottal stop that becomes an alef – a- when elided with a previous consonant – and a b sound. The s is the masculine ending for a male name in Greek (Barabbas in scripture is most always in accusative case (perhaps in dative – my Greek grammar is a bit rusty due to my interest in Semitic languages). But what if the a is actually an ‘ayin – the voiced pharyngeal fricative characteristic of Semitic languages – rather than a glottal stop? This changes the meaning in a way that still fits with the story of Barabbas and Jesus. There is nothing new here. Fr. Tarazi, in his first New Testament introduction, offers one alternative translation. He introduces the idea of metathesis – switching around the consonants of a Semitic word – a not uncommon development in these languages. Fr. Paul keeps the two alefs and reads the s as a velarized s rather than the fricative sigma in Greek and makes the name bar saba – son of the army. The implication is that Barabbas is the hoped-for military insurrectionist messiah. But what if the alef were an ‘ayin? Greek would represent this as an a, although in the Septuagint the rough breathing mark would be added to an alpha to represent the ‘ayin. Without metathesis and subbing the ‘ayin for the alef or alpha, we get bar ‘abbAs (with the capital a representing a long vowel). This is one of the words for lion in Arabic, so son of the lion. If we metathesize the consonants and get sab’a, with that last a actually an ‘ayin, we have an Assyrian (Syriac, Aramaic, etc.) word meaning “to be satiated”. These last two understandings of Barabbas highlight the character’s role. The reference to a lion brings to mind the Roman gladiator fights and the idea of sacrifice, while the Syriac “to be satiated” take clearly fits the idea of satisfying the crowd. The meaning of Barabbas is obvious; these parallax Semitic views help flesh out the meaning.

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April 7th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Christmas Reflection From Metropolitan Methodios

As always His Eminence comes through with a timely and appropriate Christmas message.  Read it below or here at the Metropolis website.  You can also find a Greek version on the site.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of ­­­­­­­deep darkness – on them light has shined.” (Isiah 9:2) “for a child has been born for us, a son given to us.” (Isaiah 9:6)

My brothers and sisters,

Again this Christmas, the Savior of the World comes wrapped in swaddling clothes to be born in the manger of our hearts to bring us joy and peace. He who lays in the manger is God Himself who comes “to visit us who are mired in darkness and shadow.” (Christmas Exapostelarion)

Christmas is a mystery of love, joy and peace. That first Christmas, it was proclaimed to the world by the shepherds. It was to the shepherds that the Lord’s angel appeared bearing the salvific news. It was the shepherds who were in the fields watching their flocks that God selected to announce the glad tidings of the birth of the Savior.

The joy of Christmas was not first shared with the political leaders of the day, who surely would have been disappointed had they seen the “King of Kings and the Lord of Lords” in the person of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes.  They surely would not have been impressed with Mary, a simple peasant woman and Joseph a mere carpenter. Nor was the news of the birth of the Savior shared with the leaders of the synagogue who certainly would have been better messengers than the shepherds, having studied the Prophet Isiah who described the Savior as “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually.” (Isiah 9:6-7) Surely they would have scoffed at the possibility of the Messiah lying helpless in a manger.

No. The mystery of Christmas was revealed to the Shepherds. God who “brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52) chose the shepherds – the common people of the world, to proclaim the Christmas story. After hearing the angelic doxology “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill among men” (Luke 2:14), the shepherds immediately went to Bethlehem “to see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15) After seeing the Savior, they joyfully proclaimed the good news “and all who heard it were amazed at what the Shepherds told them.” (Luke 2:18)

As modern day shepherds, it is our faith in the Incarnate Lord that we are called to share. It is our steadfast faith that God “sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) In the cold stable of Bethlehem, the Virgin foresaw the violent drama which would be enacted on Calvary – the traumatic struggle between light and darkness, hatred and love, death and life. The Prince of Peace born in Bethlehem on Christmas day would later be crucified on Golgotha “to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) It is this faith that we must witness to the world. It is this mystery of love, joy and peace that we – today’s shepherds – must proclaim to a world which finds itself lost “in the depths of the grave, in regions dark and deep.” (Psalms 88:6)

From the cave of Bethlehem there rises an urgent message to the world not to yield to the tragic reality of terrorism and death, of fear, of uncertainty, of mistrust, of discouragement and suspicion which grip our every moment. The example of the shepherds penetrates through history to challenge us to be men and women of goodwill. It is only then that we may live and share our faith. It is only then that we may build peace. It is only then that we may put an end to all forms of intolerance and discrimination. It is only then that the mindless spiral of blind violence in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns in America and throughout the world will finally end.

May the Prince of Peace be born in the Manger of our hearts, and may we share our faith in the Incarnate Lord with all humanity.

With Archpastoral love in the Incarnate Lord,

+ M E T H O D I O S

Metropolitan of Boston


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January 1st, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Metropolitan Methodios 2014 Christmas Reflection

A Christmas Reflection


Once again this Christmas we celebrate the birth of the only begotten Son and Logos of God.  We celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation—the mystery which has marked mankind’s history.  God Himself came to live among us. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as the only Son of the Father” (John 1:14).  The birth of our Savior reaches beyond the limits of space and time and becomes present today.  “Today, Christ is born of the Virgin in Bethlehem.  Today, He who knows no beginning now begins to be and the Word is made flesh” (Doxastikon of the Christmas Orthros).

The word today underscores that the Savior’s birth affects and permeates the whole of history.  The Eternal God entered into the limits of time and space in order to make possible our encounter with Him today.  God offers to each of us today the possibility of receiving Him as did the shepherds in Bethlehem centuries ago, so that He may be born in our lives to transfigure them by His presence. The Logos of God was sent by God the Father to save us who live today from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history…From the evil of separation from God.  From the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God. From trying to take His place. From  deciding what is good and evil.  From being the master of life and death (Genesis 3:1-7).  This is the great evil, the great sin from which we cannot save ourselves without God’s help.  “O Son of God, born of the Virgin save us who sing to you, alleluia”.

The Incarnation should be considered in the light of the Paschal Mystery.  Both are part of the redemptive work of Christ.  Jesus’ incarnation invites us to direct our gaze to His death and resurrection.  Christmas and Easter are both feasts of the Redemption.  Easter celebrates redemption as the victory over sin and death: It signals the final moment, when the glory of the Theanthropos shines forth as the light of day.  Christmas celebrates redemption as God’s entrance into history, His becoming man in order to restore man to God.  It marks the initial moment when we begin to see the first light of dawn. Just as dawn heralds the light of a new day, so Christmas announces the cross and the glory of the resurrection.  The Fathers of the Church interpreted Christ’s birth in the light of the whole work of Redemption which finds its summit in the Paschal mystery.  God becomes man.  He takes on our flesh to conquer death and sin.

St. Basil the Great writes, “God assumes flesh to destroy death hidden within it.  Just as antidotes to poison, when ingested, eliminate the poison’s effects, and as the shadows within a house clear with the light of the sun, so death, which had dominated human nature, was destroyed by the presence of God.  And as ice remains solid in water as long as night endures and shadows reign, but melts at once by the sun’s heat, so death (which had reigned until the coming of Christ) as soon as the grace of God our Savior appeared and the Sun of Justice arose, ‘was swallowed up in victory’ (1 Corinthians 15:54), for it cannot coexist with Life” (Homily on Birth of Christ, 2: PG 31, 1461).

In another text St. Basil issues this invitation: “Let us celebrate the world’s salvation and mankind’s birth.  Today Adam’s guilt has been remitted.  Now we need no longer say: ‘you are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19), but rather: united to Him who descended from heaven, you shall be admitted into heaven (Homily on the Birth of Christ, 6: PG 31, 1473).

As we gather with our families this Christmas, may we encounter the tenderness and love of the Incarnate Logos who stoops down to our limitations, to our weaknesses, to our sins.  He lowers Himself to us.  St. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ “though He was in the form of God…emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians, 2:6-7).  God lowers Himself to the point of being born in a manger as a prelude of His self-abasement in the hour of His passion.  God’s love passes by way of a manger in Bethlehem to the Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

Let us live this wondrous event.  The Son of God is born today to bring us to Himself.  We are invited today (and every day) to discover the presence of God’s saving love in our midst.

The Logos of God comes this Christmas to transform our lives by the power of His love.  Let us contemplate the mystery of Christ’s birth against the backup of the Pascal mystery—to the redemption won for us on the cross and the glory of the resurrection.

May we prepare ourselves to become mangers to embrace our Savior who comes today to reign in our hearts and souls.


With Archpastoral love in the Incarnate Lord,





Metropolitan of Boston

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December 16th, 2014 by Fr. Greg


Here is a beautiful picture taken by Vas Ferreira yesterday morning:

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August 8th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

A Note On Holidays And Greetings

This year Orthodox Easter fell, as it often seems to do, a week after Western Easter (how timely, right, since it is now many weeks after Easter?  But we are still in the Easter season for another week or so, so there: ).  I noticed something on Facebook, where I am part of a pretty good sized network of people from all backgrounds but with a lot of Orthodox friends (a buddy of mine said my friends list looks like the Athens phonebook), that was rather disquieting.  I saw a lot of my Orthodox friends writing status updates that said “Happy Easter to my Orthodox friends” (or kalo pascha or some such variation).  My main problem is with the “to my Orthodox friends” part.

Do we contain our holidays amongst ourselves?  Would non-Orthodox or non-Christian people be offended if we joyously wished them happy Easter?  I hope not.  We have, seemingly, been cowed by political correctness and fear of offending people to the point that we are hesitant to wish a simple religious or cultural greeting to friends.  Really?  I understand that the hesitation is well-intentioned, but come on now.  As Orthodox Christians we are called upon to spread the gospel message.  I understand that people may be uncomfortable approaching friends about Christ or whatever but this is just a greeting.  Surely we can do at least that!

I fully expect my friends of other faiths to wish me their own greetings for their holidays.  It is a nice thing, makes me feel included, and exposes me to stuff I would not normally know.  If someone knows you well and is offended by a holiday greeting, especially a blanket one on something like Facebook, well then, good grief.  I understand that we all use Facebook for different reasons – personal, ministry, business, a combination, whatever – but at the very least people in our orbit should be comfortable with the fact that we like to say Kalo Pascha or happy Easter.  Let’s not be afraid to own and be proud of our holidays.  God help us if we don’t welcome people into them.  And let’s not remove the soul from Easter and other special days by keeping them to ourselves.

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May 14th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Old And New

I was listening to the local oldies station today and Donna Summer’s Dim All The Lights came on, with its line “Turn on the old Victrola”, which refers to an old school phonograph.  I started thinking about obsolete references in songs, and realized there is probably a whole spectrum of such things (I am not well versed in current top 40 tunes so I cannot attempt any sort of off the top of my head blog post on this but I am going somewhere here).  The disco one given above is obsolete on purpose – it is clearly a nostalgic reference to the old days.  The obvious example of a dated reference from a song that sprang to my mind was “jump like a Willys in four wheel drive” from Sugar Magnolia, a Grateful Dead tune with music by Bobby and lyrics by Hunter.  There are several obscurities here; we now use Jeep to mean a different vehicle, Willys has been forgotten, and the lyric refers to a trick you could do with the old Willys.  I remember playing with a Matchbox  toy Jeep Willys depicting it in WWII action when I was a young boy and even then noticing that it was strange that a Jeep was called a Willys, so I imagine few people younger than me who listen to classic rock get the reference.

And yet…just when you form an opinion about something, your worldview is turned upside down.  While catching up on sports news I read this post (warning – very grim language) which has a reference to a watch fob (or watch and fob – a pocket watch with a chain).  The article got me thinking – a watch fob is one of those things that is very outdated.  Most people wear wristwatches – how silly to have a whole get-up where you pull something out of your pocket to check the time.  But…we are now, and have been for a while,  in the cell phone era.  And I (a person who never wears a watch and doesn’t even own one, as a point of pride) pull my cell out a dozen times a day or so to check the time.  For me, and I imagine for others with a similar bent, the cell phone has become a watch fob without the chain.  Funny how things come around again…

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January 18th, 2012 by Fr. Greg


I am not much of a fan of Disney in its current incarnation, but I cannot deny a certain fascination with its history and influence on popular culture.  Walt Disney himself remains an interesting figure, and I cannot deny that I have good memories of going to Disneyworld and Epcot, watching Fantasia, etc.  This article on the origins of Disneyland in California, Disney’s vision and the contrast with old amusement parks, the struggle to get everything done correctly, and so forth is a great, great read.

If you have not watched Fantasia, by the way, make it your next movie to rent or watch on iTunes or Netflix or whatever.  It is like a classical music version of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine – great and varied animation with stunning music.

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July 6th, 2011 by Fr. Greg