I recently had the privilege of visiting Christ the King Retreat Center (off Van Maren), a sanctuary of peace in the middle of town. On the beautiful grounds, there is a labyrinth that I enjoyed using as part of my prayer time. There were new things God spoke to me while using this form. It was also interesting as I walked the pattern, how at times it felt I was really close to the center and then the path would lead to an outer section, often how we feel seasons of closeness and distance from a “destination” and yet His presence is with us each step of the way.
I’ve adapted an explanation of the labyrinth and its history from The Surrendering Guide by Carlo Walth. You can learn more about his ministry at www.mentoringsacredarts.com
The Sacred Walk is the ancient practice of “Circling to the Center.” Labyrinths have been in use for over 4000 years. Various traditions have used the spiral designs as a symbol of their search for meaning and guidance.
Meaningful Design: The labyrinth is often divided neatly into four quarters around a cross, a symbolic reminder of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The Labyrinth is a “unicursal” or one path design. There are no tricks or decisions to be made. Much like walking a spiritual path in life, our only decision is to choose God and surrender to His divine guidance.
Symbol of Surrender to Christ: Early Christian Labyrinths date back to the 4th century. The Scriptures clearly teach that there is a transformation journey from the self-centered life of pride, to self-death and full surrender to Christ. Walking the labyrinth can be an extremely vivid and participatory way to symbolize this transformation journey.
Walking the labyrinth: Step into the entrance and travel through all the paths and windings until you arrive in the center. After a time there, depart and walk the same path out as in. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to walk a labyrinth. The time of meditative walking helps to quiet the mind and heart. The physical action of “moving to the center” corresponds to the spiritual action of “moving into intimate encounter with Christ.”
1. Enter: Identify a primary intention for your sacred walk. You may choose to focus on one special purpose or any combination. Examples include: worship & celebration, confession, renewal, healing, releasing grief, help in troubled times, or guidance for decision-making. Most of all simply enjoy the time of quiet and calming intimacy in the presence of Christ.
2. Walk: Take your time and quiet your heart and mind. Let go of the details and distractions of your life. Open your heart to God and become still in His presence. Pray freely from your heart or use the prayers below.
3. Arrive: When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place for contemplative thinking, praying, and quiet listening.
4. Depart: The walk outward takes you back into your life empowered and transformed by the abiding presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You can retrace your steps outward from the center of the labyrinth or simply leave by stepping across the lines.
5. Reflect: take a few minutes to do some journaling about the details of His divine promptings in your heart and mind.
The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner
David’s prayer – Psalm 51: “Be gracious to me, O God. According to Your loving kindness, according to the greatness of Your compassion, cleanse me from my sin. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and renew a right spirit within me. A broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:
Adapted from The Surrendering Guide by Carlo Walth