Happy Feast of Saint Joan of Arc! (A Look at “The Passion of Joan of Arc” Part 8 of 8)

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

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

Sainte Jeanne d’Arc, priez pour nous!

Feast of Saint Joan of Arc, Virgin and Martyr (Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time)

Happy Feast Day, everyone! I woke up all excited for many reasons. One, today is Saint Joan’s feast day (though for some reason it isn’t on the liturgical calendar … humbug)! Two, my rehabbed Daily Roman Missal has a shiny new embossed leather cover. And three … I GOT A NEW SAINT MICHAEL MEDAL!

I was beaten down with gids yesterday when we went into the church supply store. Luckily, it was almost closing time and we had other things to do. Had I had time … I would have been there for HOURS. My ADD tendencies were crazy there. Statues, medals, vestments, HOLY CARDS, anything and everything a Church geek like me would want … it’s there. Holy Mother Church! It brought back memories of when my friends and I would go to the local Catholic store (that was literally in a house) and spend hours on a Saturday browsing and buying things (it’s how I found my Aloysius medal and statue). It’s also the place where I got my first mantilla because I used to veil constantly in college. That place was much smaller than this place. At this place, we would have to make a weekend trip out of it at the very least. Too bad we’re broke college grads (“generous financial aid packages” my Scapular, yeah, if you are not an orthodox Catholic Theology major but rather a tree-hugging progressive poli sci major or something like that). Bah.

All the Saint Michael statues really popped out. I found one that was five hundred dollars and told my mother she could get that for me for my birthday. She rolled her eyes and said, “Wouldn’t you rather have some Theology books, Allie?” She knows me sooo well. I’d rather have the Theology books, a cool Saint Michael statue (not necessarily 500 bucks), and another Saint Aloysius statue … or a Saint Joan statue. I’m a Papist, through and through. I even have a hoodie that has “Papist” emblazoned on the back in Old English script.

Anywho, I have to make about twenty Rosaries by the end of the day so Imma watch last part of “The Passion of Joan of Arc” now instead of waiting until the evening when I am half-asleep. Of course, the weather is a lot more pleasant and a lot less energy-sucking so I may not have to take a power nap today. Heat (besides heresy and liturgical abuse) is my Kryptonite, it sucks the energy out of me like a starved leech sucks the blood out of a host organism. Srsly.

We pick up where we left Joan on Monday, she has made her final walk to the stake after having made her final confession and received Viaticum. My question is why would a witch and a heretic want either of those things? This part has my favorite musical track in it. It was enthralling to watch the strings play it because of how nimble the players had to be with the piece.

In the libretto, we are at the section labeled “The Final Walk.”

The clip opens with Joan approaching the stake. We see the paper with her charges written on it (perhaps recalling Christ’s INRI?) as a female soloist sings (as we heard at the beginning of the film):

[She cried out in a loud voice:] Everlasting God, who knows things hidden and all things before they happen, you know they have borne false witness against me; and see! I die, although I am innocent of everything their malice has invented against me.
(Daniel 13:42)

Joan is given a crucifix which she embraces close to her heart saying,

Dear God, I accept my death gladly …

She walks further, still embracing the crucifix. You can see that she still has some fear of what is to come but you can also see the courage that has bolstered her spirit with the knowledge that this is God’s will and that the reward for her faithfulness awaits her in heaven. No passing earthly reward can even come close to the eternal glories of heaven and they are well-worth any temporal suffering they may require. The “pearl of great price.”

She says further,

… but do not let me suffer too long.

This is not a cowardly phrase she has uttered. It’s a human phrase. Of course she is not going to say “Lord, keep it coming.” She’s human. We all have this basic drive to keep suffering to a minimum but we must also realize that there is a redemptive aspect to suffering when it is united to the sufferings of Christ on the cross. Joan embraces the suffering that she must undergo (as she embraces the crucifix) with her eyes fixed on what is to come.

Then we have a shot of a priest. I wish I could lip red French. He may be saying prayers for the dying for Joan (there are others around him praying on their knees). He may be asking her if she has any last words. Whatever he says, Joan asks the Lord (and you can tell she is addressing the Lord by the capitalized pronoun):

Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?

Remind you of the Good Thief much? There are many parallels in this portrayal of Joan of Arc’s final days and moments that align in one way or another with the last moments of Christ’s life. We see it throughout the film.

Finally, the time has come for her to be tied to the stake. One of the executioners approaches her and takes the crucifix away from her. We see as he takes it away from her, her fingers are still wrapped around it tight enough that he cannot just take it away, he must ease it out of her hands. She begins to cry as her death comes closer and closer.

She is helped up to the stake and another man begins to tie her hands around it. One end of the rope falls from her wrist, she picks it up, and hands it to the man. She helps even the man who is tying her to the stake that will result in her death. Her charity shows even as her fate weighs down upon her.

For a brief moment, we get shot of the judges as they watch with their expressions blank and eyes fixed on Joan.

We have more shots of priests and judges coming out. Then we have a shot of some soldiers with weapons drawn holding back a crowd.

Then we see Joan again, tied to the stake. The fire is lit. We see the pyre beginning to burn and the choir sings,

The Lord made for her a fire, saying:
‘You see this fire; as it changes all the
matter and substance of wood into its
own nature, even so, Divine Nature
changes into itself the souls it wants for itself …’
(Na Prous Boneta)

Jean Massieu brings the crucifix out and holds it aloft for Joan to see as she is being burned. He shouts for her to look at it. Not that she needed to be told. He probably just wanted to call it to her attention so she knows He is there.

We see Joan’s facial expressions. By now, she is feeling the extreme heat of the fire and some of it is probably licking at her as it grows. We also see her lips moving, probably in prayer.

The camera pans to see the faces of the townspeople with tears in their eyes as the watch their Maid of Lorraine burn at the stake as a witch. They may be thinking that their hope of freedom is burning with the bundles of wood. To them, Joan is a saint, not a heretic. Not so as we shall see not long after the death of Joan. They are liberated in due time by the French.

You know it’s a travesty when you see even some of the soldiers showing signs of sadness as they watch the scene unfold.

The burning continues with the choir singing:

Our King is swift
to receive the blood of innocents.
But over the same blood the clouds
are greiving.
Hence the angels sing
and resound in praises
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Our King is swift
to receive the blood of innocents.
But over the same blood the clouds
are grieving.
(Saint Hildegard von Bingen)

Now the fire is definitely burning Joan as we see by her bodily contortions and facial expressions of pain. Jean calls out to her again to keep her eyes fixed on Christ in the midst of the fire.

Some townspeople say something to one of the guards. The guard turns and says something back to them. The head officer notices this and orders his troops to prepare to quell the crowd when the time comes.

Jean cries out to Joan again as the smoke from the pyre begins to obscure the crucifix.

Then, as the fire and smoke overwhelm her, she utters her last word,

Jesus!

The people sign themselves because someone has just died. Then a man cries out,

You have burned a saint!

The head soldier calls back and orders his soldiers attack the crowd.

Now for my favorite musical part of the film. Imagine a whole string section playing this perfectly in time. Amazing.

As the soldiers attack the people, we also watch as the lifeless body of Joan is consumed by the ever-growing fire. I mean, they are not just pushing them back. No, they are beating them back with maces and clubs. Nice.

In the midst of the chaos, the chorus sings:

… you were greatly blessed when the Word of God
steeped you in the fire of the dove.
(Where you were illumined like the dawn …)
… you were greatly blessed when the Word of God
steeped you in the fire of the dove.
(Saint Hildegard von Bingen)

Jean continues to stand by the pyre, holding the crucifix, and shielding his face against the heat of the fire and the melee around him. Rocks are thrown through what looks like a church window. We continue to see shots of Joan’s body burning. The silhouette of which is cast against the bright flames.

The riot continues, we see people struggling, children crying, and Joan’s charge sheet being consumed in the flames.

Then we see a small boy walking until he find the body of his dead mother where he kneels down and cries.

A cannon is shot into the crowd. That’s real nice, isn’t it? Of course, to the soldiers, these people are the enemy, their lives mean nothing to them. If they try to rebel, they must be crushed.

This whole part musically was the best to watch. My favorite part.

The soldiers are pushing the crowds out of the city gates with maces and tower guards are throwing spears. They want to close the gate to prevent more people from entering.

After the chaos scene ends, we have a final shot of the top of the flames as they consume the stake. Then text scrolls against a black background:

The flames sheltered Joan’s soul as it rose to Heaven-
Joan whose heart has become the heart of France.
Joan whose memory will always be cherished by the people of France.

And the choir sings:

So God King of Heaven, wills it; and so
it has been revealed by the Maid …

And the film ends.

Isn’t this a beautiful film? It’s one of my all-time favorites. I first saw it on Turner Classic Movies at midnight on a Sunday, they (at least back then) had “Silent Sunday Night” where they aired silent films. I saw this film one night and another Sunday, they showed a Harold Lloyd film. Quite on the opposite ends of the genre spectrum but both have their merits for their particular area. I really credit that as to being where my affinity for silent film began.

Joan of Arc is a model for us all. She stood up for what she believed in. She remained steadfast in her faith in God and His Providence even when adversity and death weighed heavily upon her. She was so faithful to the will of God that after she signed the abjuration, she took it back realizing that she had done so out of fear for temporal suffering and having lost sight of the true purpose of her mission (besides to save France from her enemies): her final union with God.

I have a few Saint Joan holy cards. On the back of two of them is the same prayer. I want to share this prayer with you because I think it’s a prayer for anyone who wants to follow the example of Saint Joan of Arc in serving God above all else:

Most extraordinary soldier,
you insistently proclaim
‘Let God be served first!’
You began by winning many victories
and received the plaudits of princes,
but then you were given to the enemy
and cruelly put to death.
Instill in us
the desire to serve God first
and to perform our earthly tasks
with that idea ever in our minds.
Amen.

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

Have a blessed Feast of Saint Joan of Arc!
-Allie

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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.
This entry was posted in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" in 8 parts, Musings, Papism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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