Introduction to the Labyrinth
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16.11)
A labyrinth consists of a single path that twists and curves, arriving at a central point. The same path is followed out, to arrive at the entrance again.
There are no tricks to a labyrinth, and it is impossible to get ‘lost’ or follow it ‘wrong’.
Historically, labyrinths are found in almost every human civilisation; from prehistoric times to the present day. They have been used in churches from as early as AD400. The Chartres Cathedral houses the most famous example (see right), dating back to 1194.
Thus says the Lord
‘Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls’.
Standing or sitting in a circle, around the labyrinth.
may every breath we take be for your glory,
may every footstep show us the way,
that, trusting in your presence in this world,
we may, beyond this life, still be with you,
where we may be alive and reign for ever and ever.
Lord, we come before you to meditate upon your life and your words.
As we walk these words into our hearts,
help us relive their meaning in our lives.
Make me to know your ways,
Jesus, teach me your paths.
We confess the times that our ways have been crooked,
the occasions when we have strayed from the path of righteousness.
Father of all, we come before you, humble in heart,
seeking your pardon for those times,
when we have not walked in your way,
or followed your directions.
We known that in you is the path of life;
help us to journey on in your light,
putting the darkness of our misdeeds and words behind us.
You are precious and God loves you.
Continue on your journey as forgiven people.
Let the word of God be a lamp to your feet
and a light to your path.
When all have finished walking the labyrinth, the silence is ended with our saying together the Lord’s Prayer.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore, Amen.
Lord, guide us on our journeys as we leave this place.
Help us to act justly, to love mercy
and to walk humbly with you, our God.
Material from ‘Walking the Labyrinth: a spiritual and practical guide’. Sally Welch (2010). Canterbury Press Norwich.
As you start:
- Pause at the entrance and look at your surroundings, before starting the labyrinth.
- Slow down your movements and breathing – focusing on the walk ahead.
- If you are walking with a specific intention, focus on that intention.
- Open yourself up to whatever God may say. Be alert and expectant, but relax into the physical movement.
As you walk:
- Find a pace that suits you. If others are walking slower than you, overtake them gently by stepping to one side and passing them. If others pass you, do not let it disturb you; focus on your own walk.
- Pray with your whole body, in whatever form this prayer takes. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to show your emotions – other walkers will be occupied with their own prayers and reflections.
- If you feel dizzy, slow down or stop, and recentre yourself.
- Adapt the labyrinth’s path for your prayer. Walk to the centre and stay there for a bit, or walk straight out of the labyrinth. You may feel like gazing at the labyrinth, without walking it, fits your prayer.
After the walk:
- The path of the labyrinth can be seen as a metaphor for the path of life. Use your experiences of the labyrinth in whatever insights, reflections or wisdom you receive, and give thanks for them.
- Take time to act on these insights, reflections or wisdom. Perhaps write or draw your thoughts, meditate on them, or simply let yourself take time for the emotions you feel to sink in. Be kind to yourself.