As hard as Hugo tries to paint Monseigneur Bienvenu as not having his own system that replaces his religious belief, the subsequent description of the saint in this chapter can lead only to the conclusion that he missed the point of Jesus Christ. The bishop’s doctrine of the heart and especially his works-based view of the life are the problem of all religions. Still, the bishops calm demeanor and steady persistence imply an underlying faith and hope more sure than I have laid hold of in orthodoxy. I think the character development is inconsistent. He had “in his soul a deep respect for the mysteries” of the cosmos and the spirit; but these mysteries (as well as the contemplation thereof) were common to every man, and there seems to be no relationship to his God that cuts through the contemplative fog.

I like his eclectic list on the mysteries:


good and evil,

the war of being against being,

the conscience of man,

the thought-like dreams of the animal,

the transformation of death,

the recapitulation of existences contained in the tomb,

the incomprehensible engrafting of successive affections upon the enduring me,

the essence, the substance, the Nothing and the Something,

the soul, nature, liberty, necessity;

As he says, there are two world views to deal with the problem.

SO what are the essentials? What defines the necessary faith of those who find eternity in a personal God? For the Christian it starts with the belief that Jesus is the Son of God who imputes His righteousness and sonship to those who believe on Him as the way to the Father. After that, where does the black and white become gray?

What I get from the bishop is that so much of life is about the process – being with God in the present moment, and acting consistent with that being.  I know that I am called to follow and let words of truth stimulate me to contemplate the beauty of the mysteries. But the existence of “answers” may even be an illusion of the human mind – a necessary simplification to this linear perspective on time-space. Rather, the point is faith in the Savior who rescues from nothingness. He is the Something, and we can be found in Him, about His business of being loved and loving.