Articles Culture, Science & Society

Standing In The Narrow Pass

Source: Deacon Lawrence via via

The Battle of Thermopylae

The Battle of Thermopylae has taken on the force of legend. In 480 B.C. Xerxes I, of Persia, attacked the Greek city-states with a force of 300,000 soldiers. The Greeks were defended by an army of 7000, led by the Spartan king Leonidas.

Xerxes vowed to conquer all of Greece but to do so he had to get his army through a narrow pass. It was at this pass of Thermopylae that Leonidas positioned his men. For seven days the vastly outnumbered Greeks held off the Persian empire.

The pass of Thermopylae was the only road through which the massive Persian army could pass. But it was only slightly wider than the length of a football field, meaning that the Persians could not use their full force against the Greeks. The Greeks on the other hand, even with their much smaller force, could easily defend the narrow pass.

In the end, the Greeks were defeated by treachery and betrayal, but the stand at Thermopylae has been regarded as a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds. Though they were ultimately defeated, their defeat was not without meaning. The time that Leonidas was able to gain allowed the Greeks to rally and defeat the Persians at Salamis a few months later.

If the Greeks had taken on the Persians in an open field, which was the much more common style of warfare at the time, they would have been easily defeated by the Persians. No matter how fiercely they fought, and the Spartans were renowned for their skill as soldiers, they would have been overwhelmed by vastly superior number of the Persians. You could say that the Greeks were able to hold off the Persians by forcing the enemy to come at them one at a time.

Enduring the Hardships of Life

Every time we experience tragedy or hardship, whether on a personal level or on a global scale, the question is inevitably asked, “Where is God?” The answer of course is that God is here, with us, every moment of every day. We sometimes expect God to act like Superman, to swoop in and solve all of our problems. Our disappointment over the fact that this does not happen says more about us than it does about God.

There was, not too long ago, a posting on a website from a man, an artist, who was leaving the Catholic Church because the Church did not support him as an artist. Needless to say, this reflects more on the man than it does on the Church.

We have not been promised a life without pain or suffering, indeed we have been promised just the opposite. Artists know, or should know, that they have chosen a path of hardship, sacrifice, self-denial, and not a small amount of frustration. The vocation of creativity is to toil endlessly with little to no promise of compensation. Like Leonidas we must find a way to defend against on onslaught of enemies, even if victory sometimes seems unattainable.

We continue because we must. We know that in the end, if we follow our calling, it will all have been worth it. We can take comfort in the words of Rudyard Kipling:

And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comet’s hair.”
-When Earth’s Last Picture is Painted, Rudyard Kipling

The Forces of Doubt

We cannot expect God to solve all of our problems in life, but we can learn how to deal with them. Perhaps first and foremost we should tackle the doubt that threatens our faith.

As Christians, we should not have any doubt, as Thomas the Apostle did, that Christ is Lord and God. But in reality we struggle with doubt every day. Every time we feel frustration, anxiety, and stress in our lives, we struggle with doubt.

We doubt our own worthiness to be forgiven. We doubt the mercy and goodness of God. We doubt God’s desire or ability to fix our mistakes, bring victory out of failure, good from evil, and life from death.

But God has shown us His infinite mercy, a mercy that removes all doubt.

After His death and resurrection, Jesus returns to His followers who abandoned Him only a few days before. He had every right to be angry, hurt and disappointed. But He does not abandon them to their own fears and regrets. He comes among them and brings them His peace. He even invites Thomas to see and touch, and believe.

And for the rest of the world that allowed Him to be tortured and crucified He sends those same followers out with the ability to forgive sins, God’s ultimate act of mercy.

We all have doubts, we all resist God’s action in our lives one way or another. We get mad at Him, mistrust Him, and rebel against Him. But it is exactly at those times that God comes to us and offers us His mercy to win our trust and strengthen our faith..

Faith in God is the cure for our frustration, anxiety, and stress, the plagues of modern life.

As Christians we stand in the narrow pass of today. If we choose to take on every difficulty at once we will surely be defeated. But if we trust in God and take on our troubles one at a time, we will find that our strength is sufficient.

Pax vobiscum

Christ in Majesty © Lawrence Klimecki
Christ in Majesty © Lawrence Klimecki

Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at and can be reached at

Header image: Thermopylae via Queen of Peace media