Why Walk the Labyrinth?

By Rev. Chris Harris


On Tuesday nights in Lent, we will be offering Labyrinth Walks in the Atrium at Christ Church Cranbrook. It will be open from 6:30 PM to 8 PM each Tuesday night in March — you can come any time. You’ll want to give yourself about 20-25 minutes to experience it.

There’s a great scene in The Empire Strikes Back when young Luke Skywalker is being trained by the wise, monk-like teacher, Yoda. During his training, he comes across a mysterious tree that has a large cavern underneath it, and Luke feels mysteriously drawn to enter it. He asks Yoda what he will find inside. To which Yoda replies, “Only that which you take with you.” I think you can approach the Labyrinth in a similar fashion. 

Walking the labyrinth is an ancient form of walking meditation and prayer that invites us to become present in who we are and who God is calling us to be. While it is a winding path, it is not a maze. A maze has many choices to be made, there are wrong turns to be taken and dead ends to be avoided. But a labyrinth has only one path that leads to the center and back out again – its path is winding and circular, but it always takes you where you need to go. In this way, walking the labyrinth is a way to become present to yourself and to God. Freed from concerns of where to turn and what to do next, we can relax into the moment, center ourselves and let the Spirit take over.

In the Christian tradition, labyrinths were common in cathedrals across Europe in the Middle Ages and associated with the tradition of pilgrimage. Pilgrims would walk the labyrinth as a way of preparing for their journey to a holy site or as a substitute for traveling if they could not afford it or were unable to do so. Today, walking the labyrinth is seen as a way of following Jesus’ footsteps, repenting of sins, praying for grace, expressing gratitude, or asking for healing.

There is NO one way to walk the labyrinth. You are free to find your own approach. But here are some ideas:

  • Focus on God: As you walk along the path, you can let go of distractions and worries that may clutter your mind. You can invite God to walk with you during this time of prayer and pay attention to how God speaks to you through your thoughts, feelings, sensations, or impressions.
  • Reflect on your life: As you follow the twists and turns of the path, you can recall the events and experiences of your life, both good and bad. You can thank God for its many blessings, ask for forgiveness, seek guidance, or offer your concerns.
  • Connect with yourself: As you reach the center of the labyrinth, you can pause and rest in God’s presence. You can also take this opportunity to connect with yourself, to acknowledge your feelings, needs, desires, or questions. You can ask God to show you who God created you to be and what God might be calling you to do.
  • Return with peace: As you walk back out of the labyrinth, you can carry with you whatever insights, messages, or gifts you received from God during your walk. You can also commit yourself to act on what God revealed to you or share it with others who may benefit from it. You can end your walk with a prayer of gratitude, praise, or blessing.

Walking a labyrinth is not magic or superstition; it is simply a tool that helps us focus our attention on God. As with so many aspects of our faith journey, it’s less about a destination than it is about exploring who we are on the journey – who we bring with us, who we meet along the way, and what we need to leave behind to become the person God made us to be. 

I hope you can give it a try this Lent. If you decide to come by and give it a try, I would love to hear about your experience: charris@christchurchcranbrook.org 

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