A Look at “The Passion of Joan of Arc” Part 5/8

A.M.D.G.
J.M.J.
A.T.C.

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Here it is, about 11 o’clock at night on Festival Saturday and I am blogging. Mostly because I need to keep myself up for Mass at midnight (though I hope to hit up noon) and also because I have not posted in a while. I know y’all have been prostrate with grief. Just got back from many rounds of bingo playing (the theological and philosophical commentary made my soul smile), some mingling with the people of God, and other sundry things that one does late in the evening on Festival Saturday. Except I was accompanied by our two associates at SJA, really cool guys. They are serving their Purgatory with all the time they are spending with yours truly. lolz.

I watched some Harold Lloyd this afternoon so it behooves me to follow classic 1920 silent slapstick comedy with classic 1920s silent historical drama. That and her feast in in 11 days.

Here is part five of “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” We left Joan as she internally contends with how to deal with all the different forces pulling her in either direction: Does she submit to the tortures and try to fight the pain and agony? Does she just abjure her experiences knowing that to do so would be to lie about what she knows is true? She passes out from the stress and thus begins part five …

We’re on page 10 of the libretto btw.

Joan’s unconscious body and carried back to her cell where she is laid on a bed. Preparing her room, someone picks up the crown she had woven from the straw of her bed and thrown it on the ground. The head judge and the commanding soldier talk as Joan is shown gradually coming to. Doctors examine her as the soldier watches closely. He tells them that he does not want her to die a natural death. How very kind of him to think that, right? Not a biased stance at all.

As this scene progresses, we hear this letter written (probably dictated since she was illiterate) by Joan:

Jehanne the Maid begs you on behalf of
the King of Heaven, make war no longer in
the holy Kingdom of France, …and a pitiful
thing will be that great battle and the blood
that will be shed therein by those who
come there against us.

One of the doctors tells the soldier that she is very weak with fever and must be bled. At the time, this was seen as a way to alleviate ailments by releasing all the bad essence from the body by means of controlled letting of blood. In the scene with the blood-letting, that is an actual arm being poked and bled. It’s not Renee Falconetti’s … it’s a stunt arm.

Knowing that Joan is in her altered state and most probably willing to take advantage of it to get her abjuration, the head judge calls for some of the others to get the Blessed Sacrament. They of course will see it as a sign that Joan is dying, which sure seems like it. But as we know, such is not the case as we know how it ends.

The head judge goes to Joan’s cell and sits at her bedside. She stirs and begins to come to. She looks at him and he smiles. He then looks to the door and in come the other judges.

He asks her if there is something she wishes to tell them. She says that she fears that death is approaching and that if she were to die, she would like to be buried on consecrated ground (the right of any Catholic in good standing).

The judge responds that the Church is merciful, always willing to receive a “misguided lamb.” After he says this, she puts her hand out to him but he slowly pulls his away from her as her hand touches his. Here we can see what his intentions are in having the Blessed Sacrament brought to her bedside. He intends to deliver the ultimate ultimatum.

He continues that they only want what is best for her which is why they have sent for the Blessed Sacrament.

When she is told this, she seems to regain her strength and you can see her lips curl into a bit of a smile.

As the other prepare for the Blessed Sacrament, Joan’s visage changes and she begins to take courage because the Lord is coming. When He is brought in, she lights up and she says, “I am a good Christian.” Which is true. Regardless of what the judges think.

The music begins:

O feminine form, O sister of Wisdom
How glorious you are
for in you has arisen
the mightiest life
that death will never stifle.
(St. Hildegard of Bingen)

Take a moment to be geeked out by the vestments and the utter traddy-ness of it all. You can almost hear the Latin.

Joan crosses herself. Because a heretic and a witch would definitely do that. You can see how exhilarated Joan is by the Blessed Sacrament.

Then the scribe approaches her with the letter of abjuration for her to sign.

Ultimatum delivered. Sign the abjuration or you will reject Christ Himself.

Noting that she is not signing the abjuration, the judge asks if she realizes that she is rejecting the very Presence of the Lord. And that she “outrages the Lord with [her] obstinacy.” He then tells the priest with the Blessed Sacrament to take Him away.

Her reaction is one of pure sadness and pain. The Lord has been taken away from her.

This alone should indicate their intentions with her. If they are willing to use the Lord’s Real Presence as a ploy to get an abjuration from her, they must have an idea that she may be right about her voices. Of course, pride, ambition, and all that get in the way of truth in so many ways. Sadly, this seems to be one of those times and Joan is the victim in the middle.

As the Blessed Sacrament is taken away from her, she says,

I love and honor God with all my heart.

Then we hear:

O cursed ones! O great indignation!
(St. Umiltà of Faenza, great 14th Century Italian mystic)

Flee, flee the cave
of the ancient destroyer
and come, coming into the palace of the king.
(St. Hildegard of Bingen)

The tension in this scene is abundantly apparent as one of the judges reacts to her statement. Joan then begins to speak passionately more and more as more judges begin to yell at her for the great sin they think she has committed. They are trying to get her to rethink her decision not to sign the abjuration by driving her to do so out of fear for her soul and life.

I also enjoyed watching this scene being performed musically. I loved watching how the strings moved so fluidly and quickly. (What can I say? Music runs in the family.)

The shot spins around the room showing the expressions of the judges: looks of shock on their face as Joan’s face shows one of realization.

She says,

You claim … that I am … sent by the devil.

Another spinning shot of the shocked judges.

It’s not true …
to make me suffer, the devil has sent you …
and you …
and you …
and you …

After each “et vous,” we get a shot of reactions of the judges. The last shot is of the portly judge (who looks Dominican) yelling at her. He’s the same one who spit on her earlier.

I’d say she is getting them pretty good here. She’s turning the tables on them by stating that she is not the one who is doing evil to God and His Church, they, the so-called “learned” judges, are the ones who are doing the real damage. Of course they are not going to like it. It hurts their egos.

All during this scene, we hear:

evil is rendered more believable by
putting it together with good to make it
more respectable…
(From “The Quarrel of the Rose” Christine de Pizan)

Having realized what she has just done (basically signed her death warrant) by her outburst against the judges (saying they are sent by the devil is a pretty serious charge to lodge against a room full of theologians), her facial expression changes greatly as the gravity of her actions weighs her down emotionally and physically.

The judges, in a rage, say,

There is nothing left to be done …
alert the executioner!

Her state of panic increases as she begins to weeping bitterly and run her hands roughly over her face.

The shot then moves to the outside of the prison where crowds have gathered and the judges are beginning to congregate near the location where Joan is to be executed. Joan is seen being carried on a stretcher to where all have gathered. The old man who takes off his hat appears to be a gravedigger as he hangs his hat on an exposed femur.

We hear in the background:

Hear, Almighty God, the prayers of your people …
of the girl acting according to the
works which you had spoken of to her.
Prayer commissioned by King
(Charles VII pleading for Joan’s freedom from imprisonment, 1431)

And then the clip ends. What will happen? Will Joan be burned here and now? Probably not, we still have three more parts left. How does she evade the stake at this point? At what cost does it come to her?

Well, I started writing this on Saturday just before I was to go get ready for our annual Festival Midnight Mass. Now, I am finishing the post having attended Mass. It lasted probably about 20 minutes (it is Ascension Sunday … *cough* it ought to stay on Thursday *cough*). I cleaned up and headed back to the work room. Now it’s one in the morning and there is some random infomercial on the tele about some CD collection. Oh joy. I hope to go to Mass again at noon. 20 minute Masses are like the Diet Coke of liturgy. It’s the real thing most definitely (he said the black and did the red) but it’s not as filling because it’s not the whole nine yards (music, sung parts, incense, the whole schtick). Maybe I’ll hear the Roman Canon with the special sections for Ascension. A girl can dream.

After Mass, going on some rides (hopefully with the aforementioned awesome priests) and eating some carny/ie food (intrigued by deep-fried Oreos … Twinkies are my favorite). This weekend always goes by sooooo fast. I can remember when I was little, this weekend would go on forever. Now, it starts one second then in a blink, it’s done.

All right. Imma try to stay up a bit longer. I packed my cold cream so I might despackle in the fifth grade girls bathroom so I won’t have to do that when I get home. Then, I can just change into my sweats, throw myself into bed, snuggle up under my blanket, and go off to dreamland. Tee hee. 🙂

Have a blessed Ascension Sunday/Really-Should-Have-Been-Kept-On-Thursday!
-Allie

About Ms. Allie

I am a Catholic young woman who works as a Theology teacher at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of the Detroit. In Spring of 2015, I graduated with an MA in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology. My MA thesis was titled: "Mary as Woman of the Eucharist in the Theology of Pope Saint John Paul II." I also hold a BA in Theology (with a dabbling in Philosophy) and is a member of Theta Alpha Kappa (θΑΚ), the National Theology/Religious Studies Honor Society. Prayers are appreciated.
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