Starting with Saturday, April 12 at 6:30pm, we will have our labyrinth set up in the Sanctuary. You can come walk and pray on:
- Saturday, April 12 at 6:30pm
- Tuesday, April 15 from 10:00am-1:00pm
- Wednesday, April 16 from 10:00am-1:00pm and from 7:00pm-8:30pm
- Thursday, April 17 from 10:00am-1:00pm
Depending your speed, if you walk slow it should take about 15 minutes to complete (there are chairs off to the side for those who need to sit along the way).
What is a prayer labyrinth?
In seeking to discover more about the spiritual significance and usage of labyrinths a good place to begin is with their history
The earliest known labyrinth in Christian usage can be found at the basilica of San Reparatus at El Asnam (formerly Castellum Tingitanum) near Orleansville in Algeria and is believed to date from the fourth century. Although similar in style to Roman labyrinths of the time in its centre are the words Sancta Eclesia, or Holy Church, and this sets it apart as being Christian.
It seems that much information regarding the use of labyrinths over the next few centuries is now lost but they are next seen appearing as diagrams in ninth century manuscripts. The oldest extant manuscript labyrinth is the 7 circuit Jericho found in Monastery in Abruzzi, and dates from 822 AD. Although originally square this was later redrawn as a circular pattern. The second oldest is that of Otfrid of Weissenburg, Alsace, (which is now in France) and it dates from 871 AD. This is the basic 11 circuit pattern.
The pinnacle of labyrinth usage came in the Middle Ages when they began to built into the floors of churches and cathedrals across Europe, the most well known of these is that of Notre-Dame de Chartes Cathedral which is about 80 km from Paris. Following the Reformation many European labyrinths were destroyed, they then experienced a brief renewal of usage in the early 19th century, which is when the one in Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England was built. Today a further renewal of interest in the labyrinth is developing within the Christian Church and it is spreading across the world.
Those who have walked the labyrinth today are likely to have experienced the way in which it can help to develop a sense of inner peace, how it often assists in helping to gain insight into the theme that is being reflected on while following the path and some recognize that following the path can be aid meditation. Many understand that the labyrinth is a symbol for our journey through life and that walking it can take us on a journey to the centre of our own beings.
It is also widely known that in the Middle Ages walking this sacred path was seen as a pilgrimage and, indeed, prayer labyrinths were called Chemin de Jerusalem (Roads of Jerusalem). Beyond this there seem to be no written records of their spiritual purpose or use. Yet when it comes to spiritual teaching it has always been the case that there is often little need to write detailed descriptions. Those who have eyes to see will see (Luke 10:23, Mark 8:18) and often all that is needed is a symbol or a key to understanding.
In this case we have the symbols, the designs of the labyrinths themselves, which can provide a key to the understanding that is missing. Applying this key simply requires appreciating two things. The first is that throughout Christian history the main emphasis of the Church has not been solely on the worship of Jesus Christ but also on the central essence of his message, namely the nurturing of the spiritual development of all. This understanding began to fall into decline after the Reformation and remains all too neglected today, in spite of the fact that this message and the very means of such nurturing permeates the Bible, liturgy, worship and many other aspects of the life and work of the Church.
The second part of the key is another aspect of understanding which, although not forgotten, is not adequately appreciated today. It is found specifically stated in Hebrews 11:3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. In other words the Church below was specifically built in the image of the Church above and its practices and laws were formed in the image of very real spiritual principles and laws.
For example, throughout our lives we journey on pilgrimage towards the New Jerusalem and this is heightened when greater emphasis is placed on spiritual development. The earthly Jerusalem is the corresponding image of this and as labyrinths were known as roads of or to Jerusalem it is not difficult to see that the pilgrimage of walking the labyrinth regularly provides a means of assisting our spiritual development. Regardless of where we are on our journey or whether we are seeking peace, deeper insight and understanding into an issue we have encountered in life or an aid to entering more deeply into prayer or meditation, walking the labyrinth can help to provide sustenance along the way. (from http://www.thespiritualhub.co.uk/index.php?p=1_17_Christian-Labyrinths)
How do I walk on the labyrinth?
A labyrinth can be walked either by an individual in solitude or as part of a group. If a group is using it then it should be decided in advance how many should be on the labyrinth at the same time. There is no point in allowing the pathway to become too congested on one hand while, on the other, many find that encountering others as they walk contributes to their own experience. When someone else is encountered on the path each makes way for the other if they are walking in opposite directions, while if one catches up with someone else who is walking more slowly then the faster walker may overtake the slower one.
A group may decide beforehand on a particular theme for the walk or each person may be left to personally choose a reflection. Those waiting their turn to walk should sit quietly around the labyrinth preparing, while those who have already completed the walk should sit reflecting on the experiences they had while waiting for the last walker to complete his or her journey.
As a spiritual exercise it is a good idea to remove your shoes while you walk. The reason for this is that it can assist you in your mental preparation for meditation. Also, seeing the labyrinth as a sacred pathway helps you to turn your mind away from mundane thoughts to more spiritual ones as you set out on your journey.
The focus of the inward journey should be on your chosen theme. Once in the centre be passive, open and receptive to what may come to you. On the outward journey be conscious that you are carrying what you experienced back out into the world with you.
Once you start walking choose your own pace. It does not matter if you are fast or slow. If you lose your way simply come back to the beginning again if you are on your inward journey or return to the centre if you are on your outward journey. There is no correct way to walk the labyrinth. When you arrive at the centre remain there as long as you would like.
There is no need to feel at all self conscious while you are doing your walk. Express yourself freely and do not be concerned that others may be watching you. This exercise is about your personal experience, what others may or may not think is irrelevant. None of us should be judging another but should rather be engaged in reflecting on our own journeys. (from http://labyrinthwalks.co.uk/Walking-A-Labyrinth.php)