I want to talk about a journey, our journey to God. In some ways, that’s what Lent is: a journey through 40 days of anticipation to the cross and then through to the resurrection.
In the early Middle Ages Christians were encouraged to make a special journey, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the reasons for the Crusades was to protect pilgrims. But most people didn’t have the means or the ability to make such a difficult journey, and so a substitute had to be found.
That substitute was the labyrinth.
In 325 A.D. Christians placed a labyrinth on the floor of their church. Although Christians must have been using the labyrinth earlier, this is the first historical record we have of the Christian use of the labyrinth. Since that time labyrinths have been prayed, studied, danced, traced and drawn as Christians sought to use this spiritual tool to draw closer to God.
Using a labyrinth involves moving one’s body and opening one’s heart to Jesus. All you
have to do is follow the path and you will find the center. A “typical” labyrinth experience involves preparing oneself at the threshold, following the single path to the center, spending time in the center, following the same pathway out the threshold, and then responding to the experience.
Maze or Labyrinth?
We often use the words “maze” and “labyrinth” to mean the same thing, but they’re very different. A maze is a puzzle filled with dead ends, with the idea you’ll get lost a few times; a labyrinth has one circuitous path that brings you unerringly to the center.
A labyrinth is the ideal metaphor for our journey. It presents a long, sometimes frustrating path but if we stay on it, if we persevere, we reach the center. We reach God.
Why do it now? Just as on Monday we talked about incorporating fasting into our spiritual lives, so too can we incorporate labyrinth prayers into our prayer lives.
There are many ways to pray with a labyrinth. We’ll talk about them after the video.
Even if you don’t live near a full-sized labyrinth, you can still use one for prayer by simply printing it out on paper:
You probably can think of ways you can use this design in prayer. I’ll suggest a few more:
1) Ask God a question as you enter the path. Then, as you walk slowly through the twists and turns, listen for an answer. Let your steps and your silence invite the presence and guidance of God.
2) Start your journey to the center with confession (you may want to visualize your sins being left behind with every step you take). When you reach the center, journey out with affirmation (perhaps visualizing yourself picking things up or putting things on–like the righteousness of Christ, the smile of the Father, the purity of the Holy Spirit, etc.). Pause at the exit and give thanks for your cleansing journey.
3) Recite a breath prayer as you navigate the labyrinth, perhaps praying a different prayer on each leg or quadrant of your journey. (Breath prayers are short phrases that lend themselves to repetition: Lord, have mercy. When I am afraid, I trust you. Not my will, but yours. Say the word. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Holy Wisdom, guide me.)
4) Lay down your burdens as you walk to the center of the labyrinth (perhaps marking your labyrinth with the symbols of what you’re letting go). In the center, pause to thank God for taking your burdens on himself. Then count your blessings and give thanks on the journey to the exit.
The word “labyrinth” isn’t anywhere in the Bible, but themes of following God’s way,
spiritual journeys, and enjoying God’s presence—all central to labyrinth experiences—are throughout Scripture. Two additional verses that can be used while praying the labyrinth are, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy”
(Psalm 16:11), and Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:16).
Has anyone here ever had an experience with a labyrinth? Is it something you might like to try?
by Jeannette de Beauvoir
Image Credit: Bas Gerring at Pexels