A Walk of Faith–the Labyrinth

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol which represents our journey through life. The most famous labyrinth is the thirteenth-century labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France, which originated in the Middle Ages and served as a substitute for going on pil­grimage to Jerusalem when the Crusades prevented people from traveling there. Labyrinths have been widely used as tools for meditation and prayer. You can also use walking the labyrinth as a ritual to welcome someone into a group, say good-bye to someone who is moving, celebrate a special occasion, or remember someone who has died.

The labyrinth is not a maze since there is only one path. You cannot get lost. It leads you on a circuitous route to the center and back out again. You can walk the labyrinth alone, or with others. You can walk in a slow, solemn manner, or joyously. Children often run through the labyrinth.

I’ve personally walked labyrinths a number of times and have found it to be a calming, meditative experience. It slows me down. It gives me the time and space to reflect on my life and the way God has led me through a variety of experiences. When you walk with a friend, you will find that sometimes you are moving along together, and other times you move away from one another — just like life! Even when you feel you are alone, you aren’t! Others are on the same journey, just in another place. Once I walked with a boisterous family I didn’t know. At first, I was irritated and found their noisy comments distracting; then I realized how like real daily life that is, too — we have to learn to stay focused amidst the many things that pull us away from listening for God. Every time you walk, you will have a different experience.

If you would like to find a labyrinth near you and give it a try, follow this link:

World-Wide Labyrinth Locator – Welcome

For more about labyrinths see:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

And Then There are Pilgrimages …..

And Then There are Pilgrimages …..

Writing about retreats reminded me of another way to “rest with God.”  A pilgrimage. Have you thought of yourself as a pilgrim?  Well it’s a common idea in Christianity and other religions as well.

A pilgrim  is a traveler  who is on journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey or pilgrimage (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religion. In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of physical life (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the pilgrim  from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

Pilgrimages were common in the middle ages.  Remember The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer? (well if you’re an English major you do).  These pilgrims were bound for Canterbury to the Shrine of Thomas a Becket, a Christian martyr.  Today a famous pilgrimage site is the Camino de Santiago in Spain, where thousands of pilgrims each year walk to the Shrine of St. James.

Pilgrimages, like retreats, offer a break or rest from day to day life.  Often they are made with traveling companions who, like Chaucer’s pilgrims, share stories and testimonies.  Just spending time walking is a way of slowing down and relaxing.  Taking the time to listen to those we’ve never met is rare in everyday life.

You don’t have to travel to Spain or England to make a pilgrimage, and you don’t have to go with a large group.  If you are on vacation, or even in your home town, study the area and select a church or another place with religious experience.  Go to visit, walk around.  Speak with others who are there, or tour guides who know about the location.  When my husband and I went to visit friends in South Carolina, they took us to one of the oldest churches in that area.  The church was open, and we spoke with some current members who were there as hosts.  We learned about its’ history.  It was a sort of pilgrimage.

Another way to go on a pilgrimage is to walk a labyrinth.  While some think this is a new age fad, it is actually an ancient Christian tradition.  The most famous is in the Cathedral of Chartres in France.  Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has one winding path that takes you to the center and then back out again.  It was considered a substitute for those who could not make an actual pilgrimage.  Walking a labyrinth is calming and meditative.  I have done this a number of times and would recommend it as an occasional spiritual exercise.  See if there’s one in your area.  The last one I walked was in Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.  Sometimes churches will have these, as well.

My point is — get creative with rest!  You can go on retreat, walk a labyrinth, take a pilgrimage.  You can create your own spiritual adventure.  Rest takes many forms, so try new things and find what works for you.  Just make sure your rest is the kind that renews you spiritually as well as physically.

God loves you and so do I!