Passion of Joan of Arc: Dreyer

As we begin Lent, take a look at this stupendous film: here it is on Vimeo. See links below for critique and reviews as well as Dreyer’s own statement of cinematic mysticism.

Here’s the film with English subtitles:


Silent Film (1903): Life and Passion of Jesus Christ : The Annunciation

This is an early (1903) silent film about the life of Christ.  The camera is stationary, which gives the impression of filmed theater, and the story is told in a series of scenes. I will here provide a description of the first scene of the movie, the annunciation. My remarks are borrowed from Catherine O’Brien’s analysis in the Celluloid Madonna.

In the annunciation scene, Mary is pictured holding a water jar, a detail suggestive of wells, which are symbolic places for betrothals in the Bible. The apocryphal Protevangelium of James depicts the annunciation to Mary in a domestic setting.  Mary meets the angel upon returning from a well.

Here, in this movie, the angel once he appears has a lily in his hand, a symbol of purity.  The angel fades in to make its presence felt and fades out to disappear. The angel hovers in mid-air. Mary bows to acknowledge the angel’s holiness. The angel moves lips and makes hand gestures to express the message that he carries from heaven. No fear or protest is indicated but rather devotion and acquiescence as Mary bows to receive the message and in assent.

As Mary rises and raises her arms to heaven, the gesture indicates that she is making herself a handmaid to the Lord in an historically significant act of volition.

The entire movie is visually quite fascinating. The absence of sound heightens the visual effects.

Question: What are the advantages of silent film, aesthetically, in portraying the life of Jesus?

Farkhunda: Martyr from Afghanistan : Crucifixion

In 2015 Farkhunda, a young woman of Afghanistan, was savagely beaten and put to death by a mob. Her alleged crime was that she had burnt the Qur’an: a false accusation. Jesus Christ was crucified and put to death on grounds of religious blasphemy.

Wherever  spiritual freedom is assaulted and crimes are committed against the innocent — on  grounds of religious absolutism — Jesus is crucified, once again. Here’s an article about Farkhunda:

And another:

Martyred in Afghanistan

In the Christian gospel, the resurrection signifies the victory of life — and justice — over against their opposites (death and injustice). Let’s learn from Farkhunda’s martyrdom and support the cause of justice in Afghanistan and around the world.

Here’s one way to give: Women for Women

Or, if you are not able to donate money, learn and care and give as you are inspired to do.

A Female Christ

Our devotional lives depend on the imagination. Through the imagination, God (or Spirit) appears to us in forms that arouse our yearnings and our curiosity. Why then is the contemporary imagination, pertaining to Jesus Christ, sometimes rather fixated on the maleness of Jesus? It was otherwise for early Christians.

This article discusses a report, from the second or third century CE, about a vision of the female Christ, which came to a female prophet. We learn of this vision from a church writer and heresiologist, Epiphanius. As I will show, while our historical sources are biased against female prophets and their visions, we may read between the lines or “against the grain” of the text. In doing so, based on partial and biased evidence, we may reconstruct the lives and beliefs of female prophets and visionaries in early Christianity.


Epiphanius of Salamis in Cyprus (ca. 311-403) put together a book called Panarion (literally: Medicine Chest), in which he makes a collection of heresies (figuratively: diseases) and orthodox truths (figuratively: medicines).  He writes about the Montanists, a group which adhered to the teaching Montanus, a prophet, and Maximilla and Prisicilla, two female prophets. They lived in the mid-second century in the area of Phrygia (in modern day Turkey).

Their movement, at its inception, was called the “New Prophecy,” and it went through a number of iterations during the several centuries of its lifespan. Besides accepting females as leaders and prophetesses in their movement, the group were millenarian, who supposed that heaven would come to earth in the Phrygian city Pepuza. (See note for a link to more writings about the Montanist movement.)

In one report, Epiphanius argues against a certain off-shoot of this movement, called the Quintillianists. Their prophetess had a vision of Christ as a woman. Although Epiphanius does not favor this group – he conceives them to be heretics – we, as modern people, are free to examine the matter from their side. In any case, we have evidence, here, of the visionary richness of the early Christian movement.

To be clear, the vision of a female Christ that Epiphanius reports may not be a literal and accurate report. This church writer may have been defaming and slandering the group against whom he argues, by imputing to their female leaders a vision of the female Christ. Nevertheless, the passage is intriguing and may speak to the actual devotional practices of early Christians.


Here’s the report from Epiphanius, Panarion 49.1:

.. The Quintillianists or Priscillianists say that either Quintilla or Priscilla (I am not sure which one, but one of them), as I mentioned before, slept in Pepuza and Christ came to her and he slept next to her and it happened this way according to the misled woman: “Christ came to me dressed in a white robe,” she said, “in the shape of a woman, instilled into me wisdom, and shared with me how that this place is holy, and that Jerusalem will come down from heaven here.” And, because of this, even down to this day, they say, that certain women and men also are initiated there on the site, so that those people can wait for Christ and see him [themselves]. They are women in this group whom they refer to as prophetesses.

Female Leaders and Scriptural Arguments

The female visionaries, described by Epiphanius, argued against the orthodox bishops of the period. The visionaries claimed that women should be ordained. They anticipated feminist arguments in later centuries by citing scriptural mandates for women’s ecclesiastical authority.

 Panarion 49.2:

  1. They use both the Old and New Testaments, and similarly say that they believe in the resurrection of the dead. Their founder is Quintilla, along with Priscilla who was also a prophetess of the Phrygians. The give many scriptural references which have no relevance and they give thanks to Eve because she was the first one to consume food from the tree of wisdom. They offer as scriptural support of their ordination of women as clergy the case of Moses’ sister being a prophetess. Beyond this, they say Philip had four daughters who prophesied.

The Bishop gives scriptural counterarguments.

Panarion 49.3:

Even though they ordain women as bishops and presbyters because of the example of Eve, they should listen to the Lord when he says, “Your resort shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over thee.” [Gen 3:16] And they have missed (perhaps on purpose) the command of the apostle which says, “I do not allow a woman to speak, or to have authority over a man,” [1 Tim 2:12] and again, “the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man,” [1 Cor 11:8] and, “Adam was not deceived, but Eve, deceived first, fell into condemnation.” [1 Tim 2:14 ]There is definitely abundant error in this world.


Even though Epiphanius portrayed the female prophets of the Montanist movement as if they were severely misguided—their beliefs were evidence for him of the “abundant error in this world”—nevertheless we are free to disagree with the Bishop’s opinion. Based on partial evidence and while correcting for biases not our own, we may surmise that these women spoke for a widespread and innovative variety of Christian spirituality, which flourished in the early Church. By considering their example, our own religious imagination may be enriched.

**Tertullian (155 – 240 CE), the North African Christian theologian, was an adherent to the New Prophecy. Later writers, of which there are a great number, argued voluminously against the Montanists.

For the text by Ephiphanius, and many others about the Montanist movement, see these archives: Montanist Archives

***For female Christ images see: Art that Dares


Santa Librada: Christ/Mary (boundary crosser)

Argentina Librada

Saint Librada Argentina

Hi All:

Popular devotion captures the scandal of the Cross, which mixes up boundaries between heaven and earth, male and female, and sacred and profane. This mixing up is exhibited in Saint Librada, who is popular in Argentina.

According to Marcella Althaus-Reid in Indecent Theology, “Santa Librada is worshipped as the female crucified Christ of the urban poor.” She is an ambiguous Christ/Mary: female like Mary but crucified like Christ.  Often she is portrayed as blonde, as Jesus tends to be. Thus, Mary transgresses the site of the Cross — like a female Jesus — while Jesus becomes a transvestite, adopting the garb and look of Mary, for instance by wearing a shawl and necklace– in a “pattern of divine transvest00Liberata_Santaism.” 

As a boundary crosser, “Librada’s worship originated around legal and social transgression. An old traditional prayer asks her to deliver a person from the police because she is the protector of petty thieves and bandits, who are understood in Argentinian society as thieves by necessity, not choice.” Librada, like  other Santos Bandidos (Bandit Saints), are heroes for assisting the poor to take risks for their own survival, for instance by small thievery. Thus, boundaries between virtue and vice are also blurred.

Saint Librada is not to be confused with Saint Liberata, aka Saint Wilgefortis – herself gender-transgressing. She is known as the bearded Saint. See: Paris Review: the Bearded Saint

See also: bearded woman





Our Lady of Guadalupe as a Mirror for Our Selves



Yolanda Lopez, a Chicana artist, produced this tripartite series of portraits (in 1978): The Guadalupe Triptych. The woman, who is depicted as a runner, is the artist herself. The picture is called:Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe.lopezyolanda6


“Essentially, she [the Virgin of Guadalupe] is beautiful, serene and passive. She has no emotional life or texture of her own” so Lopez commented…..”Because I feel living, breathing women also deserve respect and love lavished on Guadalupe, I have chosen to transform the image. Taking symbols of her power and virtue I have transferred them to portraits of women I know….As Chicanos we need to become aware of our own imagery and how it functions. We privately agonize and sometimes publicly speak out on the representation of us in the majority culture. But what about the portrayal of ourselves within our own culture? Who are our heroes, our role models?” “Yolanda M. López Works: 1975-1978,” San Diego, 1978.

Amalia Mesa-Bains gives this interpretation of  the series:  “López’s Guadalupes are mobile, hardworking, assertive, working-class images of the abuela [grandmother] as a strong, solid nurturer, mother as a family-supporting seamstress, and daughter as a contemporary artist and powerful runner.”

On Yolanda Lopez and Guadalupe Triptych

See also: The Guadalupe Series