Essay / Misc.

Vigen Guroian at Biola

On Thursday Feb 16, Dr. Vigen Guroian spoke twice at Biola.

At 5pm he spoke on “The Office of the Child,” and presented a reading of Carlo Collodi’s Pinnocchio that emphasized, in a touching way, the theme of filiality. “Child,” on this account, is not equivalent to “young person,” but carries the whole relational weight of “offspring,” or, more pointedly, “son.” It is funny how we can use the word in the flattened sense that obscures the family. Guroian did just enough work to sensitize the audience to the theme (partly by reading from his own book Tending the Heart of Virtue), and then let Collodi’s text drive home the point.

At 7, Guroian spoke to a larger audience in a lecture entitled “I Believe In the Cross Because of the Resurrection.” This was a more complex lecture, and I’ll just mention one key idea from it. Drawing on his Armenian tradition’s particular emphasis on the unity of the person of Christ, Guroian argued that the crucified Christ should always be confessed as identical with the risen Christ. The point is so basic that it is hard to tease out precisely. The person who, in his appropriated human nature, died on the cross, is the eternal Son of God who rose again. Guroian tried to present this in a way that did not detract from the full humanity of Christ, but also did not let that “full humanity” lapse into “mere humanity.” He used two images to highlight the possibilities. On the one hand, he exegeted an Armenian icon which showed Jesus on the cross, his flesh seeming to merge with the wood of the cross, and his eyes OPEN even though he bears the side wound certifying his death. This strange –and historically impossible– image functions as a signal that we are not looking at simply one more human death. On the other hand, Guroian showed some grisly scenes from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and criticized its abstractly crucifixion-focused piety.

I have to admit I wash Guroian had continued to develop his points positively rather than polemically, but the polemic did add clarity by way of contrast. As an advocate of that Armenian hyper-Cyrillism (not to say anti-Chalcedonian monophysitism), Guroian did a good job showcasing the strengths of that emphasis: the identity of the crucified one with the eternal Word of God and the risen, exalted Son of Man.

That emphasis is something I hope to put to good use in a forthcoming book, One of the Trinity Died on the Cross, which will be almost Cyrilline enough to satisfy someone like Guroian, but will cling to the old rugged cross rather more resolutely than he might commend.

Come to think of it, I’d like to take a swat at an alternate reading of Pinnocchio, too. Which just goes to show you that Vigen Guroian’s lectures were both thought provoking.

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