The timeless appeal of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is in its depiction of selfless love. Cyrano’s bigger-than-life character captures our attention instantly. How could it not? He is a man’s man – no one wields a sword as brilliantly, nor as judiciously, as this noble French warrior whose sense of right and wrong guides him to uphold the cause of those less fortunate. Yet Cyrano is a sensitive soul, the greatest poet of his day, and one quick to win the confidence of the ladies. Even though his overly large nose draws immediate notice, Cyrano himself is larger than this one glaring defect, and in fact capitalizes on it to win greater acclaim and honor. But it is that defect which keeps Cyrano from the desire of his heart: the beautiful Roxane. Thinking himself unworthy of her, he keeps his distance, and this is the root of the tragedy that unfolds.
When Christian, a handsome cadet, newly assigned to Cyrano’s company, meets Roxane, he cannot help but fall in love. Sadly, the young man has no skill in the art of courtly romance, and thus must ask Cyrano’s help in wooing her. Cyrano agrees, seeing in Christian an avenue for communicating his heart to Roxane, even if she will never know the truth. The plan works. Cyrano’s words and Christian’s good looks win Roxane’s heart, and the two young lovers are married just as the army goes off to war. Christian dies a hero’s death, and the broken-hearted Roxane retires to a convent to live out her days in mourning. Cyrano visits her frequently, bringing news, yet never revealing his secret. Then one day assassins make an attempt on Cyrano’s life, wounding him mortally as he is on his way to see her. Knowing he is dying, he asks Roxane if he might read aloud the last letter she had received from Christian before his death. The words of course, were Cyrano’s; it was but the last of many letters he had penned on the battlefield in Christian’s name, but with his own heart. As Cyrano recites the letter’s contents, evening draws on and Roxane realizes it has become too dark to read the words. Then she understands, just as Cyrano breathes his last, that it was he, not Christian, who had been writing to her all along. With this new understanding, she exclaims, “Je n’aimais qu’un seul être et je le perds deux fois!” And while the translation may not be exact, the meaning of her words is clear: “I have only had but one love, and yet have lost him twice.”
God, like Roxane, has but one love, and He has already lost that love twice. Yet the tale of His love’s return is bound up in the account of the 14 blessings Grandfather Jacob pronounces over his sons at the end of his life.