The Labyrinth: Walking a Sacred Path

About six years ago, four friends went to see Mother Kim to ask her if we could paint a labyrinth on the parking lot. After her enthusiastic yes, the adults and the youth group members painted a labyrinth, choosing the parking lot because that was accessible for “rollers” as well as walkers. In those early days, this question was heard: “what are those circles that are painted in the parking.” The simple labyrinth was used for several years.

With continued growth at Holy Comforter a beautiful new labyrinth has been built by Holy Comforter folks and dedicated Nov. 1, 2016. It is located in the courtyard of the All Souls Columbarium. With its serene setting and beautiful landscaping, it is a quiet place for prayer and contemplation.   

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a tool for prayer and meditation: a prayer of movement. To walk or move about the labyrinth is to make a pilgrimage in our own church yard. To walk the labyrinth is to take a “time out,” to be refreshed. Each person brings his or her personal thoughts, prayers, problems to walk the path. It is an active, yet meditative, way to pray.

Labyrinths are found in almost every spiritual and religious tradition around the world. Their circular design has been part of civilization for 4,000 years. Designs are found in pottery, in cave art; among the Native American and Celtic cultures, to name a few examples.

In our Episcopal tradition, the Chartres Labyrinth, a classical eleven-circuit design, was among the first labyrinths in America at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest, is credited with bringing the labyrinth to churches. Her book “Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool” is a classic. The Rev. Artress now leads pilgrimages to the Chartres Labyrinth in Chartres France which was laid in the cathedral floor between 1194 and 1220.   

Labyrinths are found indoors and outdoors, in churches, schools, hospitals, and business centers. Some are rustic out in the woods; others are made of beautiful stone like the Holy Comforter labyrinth.

A labyrinth is not a maze, which has dead ends and trick turns. A labyrinth has only one path leading to the sacred center and back out again.

In walking the labyrinth, there is no right experience. It invites us to journey within the sacred circle, quietly bringing our prayers, concerns and letting go of the anxieties of daily life. It invites us into the mystery of God. Moving in the circular motion can create a sense of balance and a way to enjoy some quiet time.

For those who may wish some guidelines for moving about the labyrinth:

            Pause at the entrance to calm your spirit and mind.

            Invite God to be present with you as you walk or move about.

            Walk in silence.

            Be sensitive to others’ personal space.

            Stop and be in silence in the center for as long as you would like.

            Allow yourself to find a pace that your body wants to go.

            You may pass others on the walk: the path is two ways, going in and out.

            Use a pace and movement that is natural to you.

            No two walks are the same. Each time is a different experience.  

The labyrinth’s winding path is a metaphor for the spiritual journey. It represents our journey, as well as reminds us of so many who have traveled before us in faith.

Rev. Sandy Grundy