Labyrinth

On Sunday October 2, 2011  we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Labyrinth and had a service for The Blessing of the Animals.

A labyrinth is different from a maze. In a maze the path divides and has dead ends. A labyrinth is a single path that winds between entrance and the center. In her book, Walking a Sacred Path, Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress describes how she rediscovered the use of labyrinths as a prayer tool.

Labyrinths go back in history to pre-Christian times. They have been found throughout the world. The oldest known European labyrinth is in Crete and is dated about 2000 BC. There was a Jewish form of labyrinth. The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France is one of the few intact labyrinths remaining in a Medieval Cathedral and was created about the year 1200. In the Medieval period it was popular among Christians to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. A lot of people were unable to make that long a pilgrimage, so the church named several cathedrals throughout Europe as pilgrimage sites. Walking the labyrinth in Chartres cathedral helped Christian people get a sense of what pilgrimages can be, a walk to greater faith in Jesus Christ.

Lauren Artress says that many Christians find that praying while walking the labyrinth deepens their awareness of God’s active presence in their lives. In the introduction to her book, Artress says. “Based on the circle, the universal symbol for unity and wholeness, the labyrinth sparks the human imagination and introduces it to a kaleidoscopic patterning that builds a sense of relationship: one person to another, to another, to many people, to creation of the whole. It enlivens the intuitive part of our nature and stirs within the human heart the longing for connectedness and the remembrance of our purpose for living.”

At the center of the labyrinth there is a rosette with five or six “petals”, depending of the size. The full size labyrinth in Chartres has six. The rosette may symbolize several things. Traditionally, the rose was a symbol of the Virgin Mary. Some see it as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Others see each petal as representing different things or beings. The first to the left is said to represent the earth and minerals. The second petal represents the plant world; the third, the animal world; the fourth, the human world; the fifth the angelic; and the sixth, God.

Before you begin walking the labyrinth you may wish to say a prayer. You may have someone or something on your heart or mind that you wish to bring to God in prayer as you walk. Or you may empty your mind and simply open your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit as you walk. You may walk at your own pace and pause as you wish. You might imagine yourself walking with Jesus and listening to what he would have to say to you. Enjoy God’s presence and be open to God’s love for you.

Labyrinth at St. Stephen’s

On the west side of our church is a permanent labyrinth offered as a public space for meditation and prayer. The 49 foot diameter labyrinth has grass paths outlined by paving bricks set in the lawn. During the summers of 2000 and 2001 several members planned and constructed the labyrinth placing 2000 bricks. On Sunday, October 14th, 2001 we celebrated and dedicated the labyrinth with prayers, music, and food.

Portable Canvas Labyrinth

St. Stephen’s has a 12 foot “Personal Labyrinth” for indoor use. We are happy to share the labyrinth with others as long as it is used respectfully and with intentionality for meditation. Any damages are the responsibility of the borrower. Please contact a vestry member about using our canvas labyrinth.

Labyrinth Web Sites

There are a number of interesting web sites about the use, history, and construction of labyrinths. The following are some interesting sites:

Grace Cathedral – San Francisco, congregation where Laureen Artress, Honorary Canon, was serving when she rediscovered the labyrinth.

Veritas – offers education and training around the labyrinth as a personal practice of healing and growth.

The Labyrinth Society – support of those who create, maintain and use labyrinths.  Includes link to the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator, where you search for labyrinths, including ours.

The St. Louis Labyrinth Project – the site where our canvas labyrinth was purchased and a great source for ideas and aids for labyrinth construction.