Labyrinth



The Labyrinth at All Saints Episcopal was built in 2012 by the parishioners of All Saints.  It is classified as a 6 circuit medieval labyrinth.  It is made out of brick/pavers and is located near the Ecclesia Garden up the hill to the west from the church building.  It has become a contemplative place for many parishioners and members of the local community.

Labyrinth walking is an ancient practice used by many different faith traditions for spiritual centering, contemplation and prayer. Entering the serpentine path of a labyrinth, the walker walks slowly while quieting their mind and focusing on a spiritual question or prayer.

What is a Labyrinth?

A labyrinth is not a maze. It has only one path to the center and back out, which is the meaning of the term unicursal (one line). It has no blind alleys or dead ends. The path twists and turns back on itself many times before reaching the center. Once at the center, there is only one way back out. In this way, it symbolizes a journey to a predetermined destination (such as a pilgrimage to a holy site), or the journey through life from birth to spiritual awakening to death.

History of Labyrinth Walking

Labyrinth images are found in many cultures. The term is of ancient Greek origin, and the labyrinth in the palace of Knossos in Crete figures in Greek mythology. It is found in Hindu and Hopi images among many others. In Christian usage, a labyrinth was constructed in stone in the floor of Chartres cathedral near Paris, around the year 1200 CE. The faithful could make a pilgrimage journey to the cathedral and complete it by walking the labyrinth as the final symbol of a journey to the Holy Land. It was also used as an act of repentance for sins. The penitent might walk it on their knees. Labyrinths are found in many Gothic cathedrals.

How to Walk a Labyrinth

Today, there is no set ritual for walking a labyrinth, but there are books and lectures to assist you in performing a labyrinth walk. The basic advice is to enter the labyrinth slowly, calming and clearing your mind. This may be done by repeating a prayer or chant.

Open your senses and focus on the process of taking slow and deliberate steps. Bring to mind a prayer or spiritual question to contemplate during the walk to the center.

Reaching the center, pause to reflect, pray, listen for an answer or for deeper revelation. Now begin the return journey. Pray or reflect further. Upon exiting, use further reflection, prayer, or journaling to absorb the experience.

In Christianity

Labyrinths have on various occasions been used in Christian tradition as a part of worship. The earliest known example is from a fourth-century pavement at the Basilica of St Reparatus, at Orleansville, Algeria, with the words "Sancta Eclesia" at the centre, though it is unclear how it might have been used in worship.

In medieval times, labyrinths began to appear on church walls and floors around 1000 C.E.. The most famous medieval labyrinth, with great influence on later practice, was created in Chartres Cathedral. The purpose of the labyrinths is not clear, though there are surviving descriptions of French clerics performing a ritual Easter dance along the path on Easter Sunday. Some books (guidebooks in particular) suggest that mazes on cathedral floors originated in the medieval period as alternatives to pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but the earliest attested use of the phrase "chemin de Jerusalem" (path to Jerusalem) dates to the late 18th century when it was used to describe mazes at Reimsand and Saint-Omer.  The accompanying ritual, depicted in Romantic illustrations as involving pilgrims following the maze on their knees while praying, may have been practiced at Chartres during the 17th century.

The use of labyrinths has recently been revived in some contexts of Christian worship. For example, a labyrinth was set up on the floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral for a week in March 2000.

Feel free to stop by and go for a walk on the All Saints Labyrinth.  You may find yourself refreshed, invigorated and ready to face the challenges of everyday life.

God’s Peace!