I was complaining to my brother recently that I'm not excited for any of the movies coming out this year with two exceptions: Brave and The Hobbit. He looked up movies coming out and really didn't find much else to be excited about until the December releases. There, he found "Les Miserables"! Thinking of the last production, I was a little wary. (I loved some parts of the Liam Neeson version and hated others.) He started to read the cast list and I started to get excited. Hugh Jackman as Valjean. (Loved him in Oklahoma!) And Colm Wilkinson as the bishop!!
Of course, we know Colm Wilkinson best playing the role of Valjean on Broadway. This is quartet from the 25th anniversary concert where he and three others were invited to sing "Bring Him Home."
Anyway, as I was watching this great video, I was reflecting on Wilkinson playing the role of the Bishop of Digne. I have read "Les Miserables" through twice, unabridged of course! I think I only made it through the first time because I wanted to impress a boy I was impressed with. :) But having actually read the book, I love it. The first time I read it, I was only about 14 and I was bored beyond belief by the first part of the book. Ironic because that became my favorite part of the book. That and the last few pages of course.
I ask your pardon as this is rather a wandering essay here.
Anyway! As I watched Colm Wilkinson sing in that quartet, I was struck with how benevolent he looked. That is the characteristic I would use to describe the Bishop of Digne in the book. (On another tangent, it's always annoyed me a little bit that the bishop has been portrayed so many times as a young man. The first paragraph in the book identifies him as 75 years old!) Let me quote a little:
"Sometimes in the midst of his reading, no matter what book he might have in his hands, he would suddenly fall into deep meditation, and when it was over, write a few lines on the open page. These lines often have no connection with the book in which they are written. We have before us a note he penned on the margin of a quarto volume entitle The Correspondence of the Lord Germain with Generals Clinton, Cornwallis, and Admirals of the American Station...
"And this is the note: 'Oh Thou who art! Ecclesiastes names thee the Almighty; Maccabees names thee Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians names thee Liberty; Baruch names thee Immensity; the Psalms name thee Wisdom and Truth; John names thee Light; the Book of Kings names thee Lord; Exodus calls thee Providence; Leviticus, Holiness; Esdras, Justice; Creation calls thee God; man names thee Father; but Solomon names thee Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all thy names."
"As we have seen, prayer, celebration of the religious offices, alms, consoling the afflicted, the cultivation of a little piece of ground, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, self-sacrifice, confidence, study, and work filled up each day of his life. Filled up is exactly the phrase; and in fact, the bishop's day was full to the brim with good thoughts, good words, and good actions. Yet it was not complete if cold or rainy weather prevented him from passing an hour or two in the evening, when the two women had retired [his sister and their housekeeper], in his garden before going to sleep. It seemed as though it were a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for sleep by meditating in the presence of the great spectacle of the starry firmament. Sometimes late at night, if the two women were awake, they would hear him slowly walking the paths. He was out there alone with himself, composed, tranquil, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies, moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts that fall from the Unknown. In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night emit their perfume, lit like a lamp in the center of the starry night, expanding in ecstasy in the midst of creation's universal radiance, perhaps he could not have told what was happening in his own mind; he felt something floating away from him, and something descending upon him; mysterious exchanges of the soul with the universe.
"He contemplated the grandeur, and the presence of God; the eternity of the future, that strange mystery; the hidden deep in every direction; and, without trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, he saw it. He did not study God; he was dazzled by Him...
"What more do you need? A little garden to walk in, and immensity to reflect on."
I'm thinking maybe it's time to read this again.
P.S. Isn't minute 2:57 chills-inspiring?
P.P.S. If you look in the background, up on the screen at minute 3:44, you notice another Valjean acknowledging Colm Wilkinson. Classy.
Week ending 1-14-18
5 days ago