What is a Labyrinth?
- The labyrinth is an ancient tool for reflection on one’s life and one’s spiritual journey. The earliest labyrinth still in existence is on the island of Crete and was built around 2500 BC. The labyrinth at Saint Mark is patterned after the one built at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France around 1200 A.D.
- The labyrinth is a pattern which creates “sacred space.” It can be found in almost every religious tradition. To walk the labyrinth is to experience a time of healing, clarity and transformation.
- European Christians placed labyrinths in many of their cathedrals during the time of the crusades to symbolize their tradition of making pilgrimages to the Holy City, Jerusalem. Walking the labyrinth brought them to “the heart of God” without the danger and expense of a pilgrimage.
- The labyrinth is not a maze. A maze has multiple paths and a myriad of choices, most of which lead nowhere. A labyrinth has a single path. With no choices or intersections, the path leads you to the center.
Why Walk a Labyrinth?
- The labyrinth is an active way of praying. It uses our whole selves—our minds, bodies and spirits—and invites our imagination, intuition and creativity into prayer. Walking the labyrinth helps to integrate and balance all of these parts of ourselves.
- The path of the labyrinth imitates the journey of our lives, with their many twists and turns and returns, and always brings us “home” to the center of our being, to the heart of God.
- The labyrinth introduces us to the idea of a wide and gracious path to God, one that is horizontal instead of vertical, where there is room for error and forgiveness, and where we are all walking together.
- Walking the labyrinth may bring you peace, comfort, clarity, or relief from stress. It may offer a sense of closeness to God, or new insights and perspectives on problems or questions in your life.
- Walking the labyrinth may bring you a greater sense of connection and community with your fellow travelers, with the earth, the universe, and with God, the creator, redeemer and sustainer of all.
How to Walk the Labyrinth
- Take time to relax a little. Allow yourself to be calm and quiet. Give your mind a rest and put one foot in front of the other. Walk at your own pace in silence. If someone ahead of you is walking more slowly than you are, you may pass them by briefly stepping off of the path. If you would like to stop, be aware of others behind you and allow them to pass. If you meet someone on path, simply step aside to allow them to pass and then continue on your walk.
- Take time to reflect on where you are in your life and allow the silence to fill you. Take this time to be open to receiving peace and clarity.
- Before you enter, you may want to bring to focus a question or a problem from your life and release it to God. You may also imagine the path to the center as a time of unraveling anything that is separating you from God, or as a space and time that you have made for reconnection and commitment.
- You may want to slowly repeat a sacred word, phrase, or prayer to help focus your intent.
- Ask God for what you need from this time as you walk your prayer.
Suggestions for Walking
- Prepare — Set your intention. Reflect on your life right now. Maintain silence for your own reflection and that of others.
- Walk in — Set your own pace. Stop if you chose. Let go of burdens, ideas, the need to control. Simply follow the path. Remember, all things on your walk will instruct.
- Center — When you reach the center, walk in and stay as long as you like. This is a place for reflection and gratitude, a place to listen to the still small voice of God.
- Walk Out — When you are ready, begin your journey back. Be aware of your feelings, your energy and insights and images.
When Can I Walk the Labyrinth?
Saint Mark’s labyrinth is available on select days and times during the seasons of Lent and Advent.