The labyrinths of St. Albert United Church were constructed by congregational volunteers in order to make this tool for prayer available to anyone in the congregation or community.
Many religious traditions have some form of walking meditation. Labyrinths have appeared in a wide diversity of cultures for thousands of years. In the medieval era, Christians adopted the labyrinth symbol as a sign of resurrection and as a form of spiritual pilgrimage.
The labyrinths at St. Albert United are replicas of the labyrinth laid in stone in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France around 1200 AD. The portable labyrinth, painted on a parachute has a shorter path, in the ‘petite Chartres” style and is used at our monthly labyrinth walks. The outdoor grass labyrinth is a full 40 feet, the same size as the original Chartres Labyrinth and can be used whenever weather permits.
The circle is a universal symbol for unity and wholeness. There is something about walking the path and turns that allows us to meditate and pray more deeply. Labyrinths are often confused with mazes. Mazes are games or puzzles intended to confuse and trick the mind. Labyrinths have only one path that leads into the centre. That same path is then followed back to the beginning.
People come to walk for countless reasons. For many it is a way of centering themselves, slowing down, taking time to reflect. Others walk it for insight during times of transition in their lives. It’s also common for people to come to walk the path of the labyrinth to commemorate anniversaries, both joyful and grief-filled. People walk it before significant times in their lives such as the beginning of a new job or before surgery.
The Rev. Lauren Artress, creator of the Labyrinth Project and Veriditas at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, speaks of the process of walking the labyrinth this way:
“Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual discipline that invites us to trust the path, to surrender to the many turns our lives take, and to walk through the confusion, the fear, the anger, the grief, that we cannot avoid experienceing as we live our earthly lives. The labyrinth is a place where we can open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. We can ask for guidance and pray for ourselves and our loves ones. It calms the confused mind and the chaotic, fearful heart. It allows us to release all that is in our way of relating to the Divine: our hard-heartedness, our judgments, our impatience. The healing power of gratitude often fills the heart.”