Cosette was Delighted to be a Baroness

In Victor Hugo’s most famous work, Les Misérables, there is a girl named Cosette. Her father left her mother before Cosette was born. And though Cosette’s mother loved her dearly, they were separated when Cosette was very young, and Cosette was raised by a couple who treated her much like Cinderella’s stepmother treated Cinderella. When she was yet a young girl, Cosette was rescued by a kind man who had known her mother. He raised her as if she were his own. When Cosette came of age, she fell in love with a good young man named Marius Pontmercy, a baron, who had had a trying history of his own. The two of them marry near the end of the novel.

Hugo’s novel is divided into five parts, each part divided into “books.” In Book seven of the final part, the narrator makes the following comment about the Pontmercy household.

A man is a baron most of all to his servants. Something of his being so redounds on them. They have what a philosopher would call the reflected glory of the title, and that flatters them. Marius was now a baron …. A small revolution had taken place within the family with regard to this title. … And besides, the woman in her beginning to emerge, Cosette was delighted to be a baroness.

Les Misérables, p. 1242

The servants and the wife of Marius in some way join in to his barony because they are connected to him. This doesn’t only refer to their status, but to their own conception of their status, to their knowledge of being in a place of privilege, their pride, not because they hold a title, but because they are associated with or belong to the one who holds the title. Something similar happens to us when we are united to Jesus. Our status is elevated, and our most confident, true, and satisfied selves drawn out by our identification with Jesus, as our King and Husband. In Song of Songs, the bride of the magnificent king undergoes a transformation of sorts. At the beginning, we find her as a day laborer, rejected by her brothers and put to work in the fields. She is unsure of herself, of her own beauty, and has not been given the time or luxury of attending to her “own vineyard.” But something has happened to her that results in admiration. “Do not stare at me,” she says, worried that her suntanned complexion will give away her laborer status, that she will not be desirable. But her lover, a king, takes her away. When we see her later on, she is different. She carries herself differently.

In chapter 6 of the Song, the young woman is no longer the day laborer, but the “Shulammite” and is being praised up and down for her beauty. Shulammite is just a feminine form of Solomon. She is the “Solomite” now, the Mrs. Solomon. She has taken his name and become royal because he is royal. It is identification with and connection with the King-Husband that brings out the best in her and gives her a royal majesty by association. Likewise, we, the bride of Christ, are raised by our union to our King-Husband to become a “royal priesthood” (king-priests under the great King-Priest), who reign with him as he reigns over all. Christ not only shows forth his own greatness, but also brings out the best in us and transforms us. We will be glorified with our Lord (Ro 8:17). But God is the source of the glory. He is glorious! But “something of his being so redounds on [us].”

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