A. Our last post in the BLUE period brought us to the end of the book of Daniel. The period in Jewish history that follows after the book of Daniel is contained in the Book of Esther (and 1 & 2 Esdras also). At the very beginning of the Book of Esther, we are introduced to a large, opulent and long lasting feast that is being given for all the princes and nobles of the Persian king. The feast lasts over 100 days. After the feast was over, the king hosted another feast, and invited all the people of his city, from the greatest to the least. This feast lasted for 7 days, and all the men of the city could come and eat and drink as much as they liked.
Esther 1: 3-5
3 Now in the third year of his reign he made a great feast for all the princes, and for his servants, for the most mighty of the Persians, and the nobles of the Medes, and the governors of the provinces in his sight,
4 That he might shew the riches of the glory of his kingdom, and the greatness, and boasting of his power, for a long time, to wit, for a hundred and fourscore days.
5 And when the days of the feast were expired, he invited all the people that were found in Susan, from the greatest to the least: and commanded a feast to be made seven days in the court of the garden, and of the wood, which was planted by the care and the hand of the king.
B. There is wine in abundance during the great feast, and everyone who wants to drink is able to drink their fill.
Esther 1: 7-8
7….Wine also in abundance and of the best was presented, as was worthy of a king’s magnificence.
8 Neither was there any one to compel them to drink that were not willing, but as the king had appointed, who set over every table one of his nobles, that every man might take what he would.
Another sub-theme in the Book of Esther is the objectification of women. After drinking too much wine, the king calls in his first Queen (Vashti) just to show off her beauty to his nobles.
Esther 1: 10-11
10 Now on the seventh day, when the king was merry, and after very much drinking was well warmed with wine, he commanded Mauman, and Bazatha, and Harbona, and Bagatha, and Abgatha, and Zethar, and Charcas, the seven eunuchs that served in his presence,
11 To bring in queen Vasthi before the king, with the crown set upon her head, to shew her beauty to all the people and the princes: for she was exceeding beautiful.
C. The Queen was not present at the great feast with the king, but was holding a separate feast for the women. When the king called for Queen Vashti to come before him (as he was drunk), she refused to come. It can be inferred (even though her reasons for refusing are not stated), that Queen Vashti had a strong sense of dignity.
Esther 1: 9, 12
9 Also Vasthi the queen made a feast for the women in the palace, where king Assuerus was used to dwell.
12 But she refused, and would not come at the king’s commandment, which he had signified to her by the eunuchs. Whereupon the king, being angry, and inflamed with a very great fury,
D. Queen Vashti refused to obey, so the king had Queen Vashti removed, and proposed that another queen be made in her place. The nobles advised the king that if women in the empire learned about Queen Vasthi’s refusal to obey the king, then all wives might rebel likewise from their husbands. Therefore, the king published a letter to all his provinces in the vast Persian empire, that the wives should submit to their husbands.
Esther 1 : 15-19, 22
15 What sentence ought to pass upon Vasthi the queen, who had refused to obey the commandment of king Assuerus, which he had sent to her by the eunuchs?
16 And Mamuchan answered, in the hearing of the king and the princes: Queen Vasthi hath not only injured the king, but also all the people and princes that are in all the provinces of king Assuerus.
17 For this deed of the queen will go abroad to all women, so that they will despise their husbands, and will say: King Assuerus commanded that queen Vasthi should come in to him, and she would not.
18 And by this example all the wives of the princes of the Persians and the Medes will slight the commandments of their husbands: wherefore the king’s indignation is just.
19 If it please thee, let an edict go out from thy presence, and let it be written according to the law of the Persians and of the Medes, which must not be altered, that Vasthi come in no more to the king, but another, that is better than her, be made queen in her place.
22 And he sent letters to all the provinces of his kingdom, as every nation could hear and read, in divers languages and characters, that the husbands should be rulers and masters in their houses: and that this should be published to every people.
***CHURCH HISTORY (NEW TESTAMENT)***
A. Our last post in the BLUE period brought us right to the start of World War I. Immediately following World War I, which ended on November 11th, 1918, the western world went through a great period of re-building and western economies began to “boom”. This was the start of the period called “the Roaring Twenties”, and all of the western nations experienced it. This was the time of massive partying, drinking and dancing. In France they called this period of time the “Crazy Years”. In Germany, it was called the “Golden Twenties”…. but no matter what the name, it was experienced the same way in all western countries.
This period in history was also marked by the increase in income disparity and growth of the upper class. Despite the rich getting richer, there was more than enough wealth to go around, as even the middle and lower classes experienced a increase in their quality of life. Consumerism grew rapidly but upper class wealth grew even faster.
B.The Roaring Twenties are known for social drinking. If any decade is associated with high levels of alcohol consumption in the history of western society, the Roaring Twenties would have to be high on the list! From America, to France, to Germany… the young adults partied, danced and drank their fill.
Another very startling characteristic of this period of history is the extremely immodest dance and dress of young women. So many young women engaged in provocative and de-basing dance (which seems uncharacteristic, when compared to other decades of early 20th century history). The Roaring Twenties were a time in which woman were highly objectified, much more so in comparison with later decades!
C. During the Roaring Twenties, consumption and consumerism were rising all across the Western World, and everyone was caught up in the abundance, the optimism and the good life. However, there was one very prominent organization in the Western World that refused to join in the great feast!
In the midst of the “great party” that was the Roaring Twenties, Pope Pius XI and the Vatican did not accept the unrestrained capitalism and consumerism that was generating the great consumption of the Roaring Twenties. Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” in 1931, in which he denounced unbridled capitalism.
Further, Pope Pius XI was also engaged in a public battle with Mussolini over the rightful authority of the Church vis a vis the secular rulers of the world. He wrote three papal encyclicals challenging fascism and its belief in totalitarianism. Fascism claimed total authority over all aspects of society… including the Catholic Church.
Pope Pius XI also wrote another encyclical to further drive this point home, Quas primas of 1925, in which he instituted a new feast day. This feast day, called “Christ the King” proclaimed that Christ is king over all worldly kings, rulers, powers… and all are subject to him. By extension, Christ’s Church shares in that authority.
(Thus, just as Queen Vashti had a separate feast, so to did the Catholic Church….. the “Feast” of Christ the King!)
In his personal life, Pope Pius XI was known to possess a strong sense of dignity for the office of the papacy. He insisted on eating alone. When he met with world leaders, he would always greet them seated (as a sign of the supremacy of the papacy). He was blunt spoken and authoritative, and when his own siblings wanted to see him, he made them book an appointment and refer to him as “His Holiness”.
D. Pope Pius XI died on Feb. 10th, 1939… one day before his scheduled address in which he was going to denounce Fascism. Because he died so closely to this scheduled speech, and because his personal physician (Dr. Francesco Petacci) was the father of Mussolini’s mistress, Claretta Petacci, then Mussonlini had the motive and the means to assassinate Pope Pius XI. Mussolini used violence to achieve his political goals, and to have the Pope of the Catholic Church denounce Fascism to a country full of Catholics, could have been a disaster for Mussolini.
In the late 1930’s, and the early 1940’s, governments were forming across Europe with strong fascist trends. Mussolini was the founder of Fascism in Europe, and it spread outward from Italy. If the Pope was able to denounce Fascism (which stands for the total authority of government), then the authority of Fascist governments across Europe would all suffer a loss of authority at the expense of the Catholic Church.
The story of Queen Esther follows the events in the Book of Daniel. At the end of the Book of Daniel, the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire. At the beginning of the Book of Esther, there is a very long lasting feast for the nobles that lasts over 100 days. But, the common people also are given a feast for 7 days. Wine is flowing, and food is in abundance during the great feast.
Our last post from the BLUE time period ended in the early 1900’s, shortly before World War I. This post was of Pope St. Pius X, and it paralleled the end of the Book of Daniel. This post, and the beginning of a new time period, is starting off with the Roaring Twenties, which started after World War I ended. The Roaring Twenties were a time of great consumption and economic growth. The upper class benefited much more, however, there was enough wealth for the middle and lower class to also experience an increase in their standard of living also.
In the great feast of the king of Persia, there was an abundance of wine, and it was freely poured out to all. Throughout the Book of Esther, they seem to be drinking wine quite a bit. Along with the abundance of alcohol, women are treated as objects in the beginning of the story. Queen Vashti is called for, so nobles can gawk at her beauty… and one gets the impression that women’s dress was also immodest and revealing, given the King’s show of lustful behavior.
The Roaring Twenties are characterized by heavy alcohol consumption. Women’s behavior and dress during this period are also very loose and immodest, especially their dancing.
Queen Vashti did not attend the king’s great feast. She had a separate feast for the women in another part of the palace. The king, drunk with wine, called for Vashti, so he could show off her beauty to his nobles. Vashti refused to come, directly challenging the king’s authority.
The Catholic Church, led by Pope Pius XI, did not approve of the economic policy of the western world that produced this period of materialism, consumerism and mass consumption. Pope Pius XI condemned unbridled capitalism in his encyclical. In Italy, Mussolini was growing more and more drunk with his power…. as his Fascist government had firm control over Italy. He called for the Church to submit to the government (not in those words, but that was the effect of his actions and speeches). Pope Pius XI directly opposed Mussolini and Fascism. He even established a new Feast Day, in which he declared that Christ was King, above all worldly authority.. and so, by extension, Christ’s Church enjoyed that same authority.
The king had Vashti deposed because of her disobedience. The nobles counseled the king to write a letter to all the empire, stating that husbands are to be masters over their wives. They advised the king to find a new queen (presumably one who would not disobey the king).
There is speculation by some that Pope Pius XI was assassinated by Mussolini for his direct opposition to his Fascist government. New Fascist-like governments spread across Europe, each claiming authority authority over the Catholic Church (sometimes more, sometimes less). After the death of Pope Pius XI, the Church elected a new pope. However, this time, they were looking for a candidate that was more diplomatic in his approach, and less confrontational. They found these qualities in Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. (more to come about this in the next post).