If there was ever any musical that could show the world an example of Christian Love, Truth, Forgiveness, and Redemption, it is Les Misérables.
I have seen this theatre show many times (as I live in London), and it never fails to touch my heart and bring tears to my eyes. Above, you will find a snippet of the Cameron Mackintosh show 'in concert' - which means you don't see the acting (I highly encourage you go and see the theatre show for that!!!). The lyrics for the profound scene above:
[Valjean is released on parole, and tastes freedom for the first time in 19 years]
[To Jean Valjean] "Come in, Sir, for you are weary; and the night is cold out there. Though our lives are very humble, what we have, we have to share. There is wine here to revive you. There is bread to make you strong. There’s a bed to rest till morning: Rest from pain, and rest from wrong."
"He let me eat my fill: I had the lion’s share! The silver in my hand; cost twice what I had earned in all those nineteen years. That lifetime of despair and yet he trusted me. The old fool trusted me! He’d done his bit of good. I played the grateful serf, and thanked him like I should. But when the house was still, I got up in the night. Took the silver: took my flight!"
[Valjean steals and runs away, but is brought back by officers for the Bishop to press charges]
Exchange between the two officers:
[ 1 ] "Tell his reverence your story" [ 2 ] "... let us see if he’s impressed".
[ 1 ] "You were lodging here last night:" [ 2 ] "you were the honest Bishop’s guest.
[ 1 ] "And then, out of Christian goodness" [ 2 ] "when he learned about your plight
[ 1 ] "You maintain he made a present of this silver..."
"That is right.
But my friend you left so early. Surely something slipped your mind?
[The bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks]
You forgot I gave these also… would you leave the best behind?!"
[To the officers]
"So Messieurs you may release him: for this man has spoken true! I commend you for your duty; May God's blessing go with you."
[Back to Valjean]
"But remember this my brother: See in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs; by the Passion and the Blood; God has raised you out of darkness, I have bought your soul for God."
"… But why did I allow that man to touch my soul and teach me love? He treated me like any other; he gave me his trust he called me "Brother". My life he claims for God above… can such things be? For I had come to hate the world; this world that always hated me…"
I do not know about you... but I know that when God broke into my heart, I became alive with this brand new second chance. In one mystically transcendent moment, I experienced the overwhelming Truth of God. A God of Love. And Forgiveness. All that I said and done in my life until that point, all I was as a person, a human being, faced the greatest Love of all. I was redeemed - and now I have been given this second chance in my life. And a new outlook!
I get to watch this amazing theatre production hit the big screen tomorrow evening, even though it was released 2 weeks ago. And I can't really express how excited I am! However, I can express some of my highlights of the story.
Based on a book by French author Victor Hugo called Les Misérables, it was brought to the stage as a musical by producers Boublil and Schönberg - who I first discovered when I became besotted with the musical Miss Saigon. Although I now wouldn't agree with the ending of Miss Saigon which tells the story of a a Vietnamese girl falling in love with an American GI during the time of the Vietnam war, only to be abandoned despite giving birth to his son, then committing suicide as the "ultimate sacrifice" so that her son can have a better life in the US with his father, now married to an American woman.
Les Mis is a story of a man named Valjean who, after stealing bread to feed the children of his sister, is put in prison for an excessive time - 19 years. He is offered parole, but breaks it. Taking refuge in the Catholic Church, Valjean steals second-rated silverware to be able to survive. As you can tell from the video above, Valjean is caught by officers, and taken back to the Bishop who can identify the thief. However, beyond most expectations, the Mercy of God shines through the Bishop, who, in a sense, wipes Valjean's interior slate clean. He offers him the first-class silverware and gives Valjean the second chance at a dignified life that he never thought would be possible. Valjean now experiences repentance, and understands the gift of forgiveness that has been given to him, and makes choices to live as a decent and honourable man. In all this time, and to the end of Valjean' story, he is hunted relentlessly by his parole officer, Javert.
To Javert's surprise, he discovers, many years after parole has been broken, that Valjean, who was prisoner 24601, has become a popular and well-loved mayor, who loves all he encounters greatly, offering help when he can give it. Without knowledge of what really happened, a single-mother named Fantine, who works in his factory is thrown out with nowhere to live, but with a child to support, sells her beautiful hair, and becomes a prostitute. Fantine and Valjean meet by chance as she is dying, and hears the story of his involvement in her fate. Feeling remorse for this sorry situation, Valjean takes the care of her daughter Cosette, to heart. He goes to find her, and encounters the comedians of the musical, a bar-owning couple who use this opportunity to exploit Valjean. However, Valjean is not phased by this injustice, as he was prepared to pay any price for Cosette to be under his care. Valjean and Cosette escape Javert's chase, and find refuge at a convent, where Cosette is able to grow up into a young woman, who falls in love with Marius, a revolution activist.
You'll have to see the musical yourself to find out the rest of the story! Or if the theatre isn't possible for you, watch the movie! This is a story with 3 major themes, as mentioned in 'Matt Lucas dreams the dream' - that is FORGIVENESS, TRUTH AND REDEMPTION. It is amazing to think that only the Bishop could have communicated to Valjean the forgiveness he really needed - very symbolic of the Church and her Sacrament of Reconciliation. When do you really know that you have been given that second chance because you're forgiven? When someone communicates that with you! One of the greatest gifts of the Church is this very concept.
The concept of Redemption here is very simple. As Jesus paid the price of our original sin, so did the Bishop pay the price of Valjean's spiritual freedom. He was no longer chained with guilt and hatred. He was now free to love. And love, he did. There are many love stories here... from the bar owners Thenardier and his wife, to Marius and Cosette. But one love story strikes me very personally. That of Éponine, the natural daughter of Thenardier, who is in love with Marius. Throughout my past, I have experienced the same "second-best" feeling. My (so-called) love was never enough to be first choice with guys I had previously been really interested in. This story of unrequitted love is one that rings very resonantly for me. On a personal level, Les Miserables helped me to understand better the sacrifices I made without knowing it, as a girl who didn't matter as much as another. But that is the nature of human love. God's love is unconditional and infinite, great and wondrous. And He gives His Love to all humankind equally. If you could ever conceive an even greater mystery than this, then I have yet to learn of it.
One of my favourite quotes from the script is "To love a person is to see the face of God". That's why this wonderful musical is such a brilliant way for anyone and everyone to be touched by the Truth about God. His Love, His Forgiveness, and the price Jesus paid on the cross, to show me how much He loves me.