Outdoor Mass during the pandemic has become affectionately known in our household as Mass on the Grass. I spend much of Mass on the Grass trying to keep Daniel, my toddler, from launching himself into the bushes, pulling cords from the nearby speaker and generally wreaking havoc on parish property. A couple Sundays ago, he sprinted in a direction away from his usual diversions. We ended up at the parish’s labyrinth, which is on a side of church where we rarely pass. Daniel immediately noticed the curved lines and began inspecting the rocks that created the image.
I held my breath and dared myself to step on to the path, not believing that Daniel would be fascinated long enough to allow me to reach the center.
Many Christians have rediscovered the power and promise of stepping into the sacred space of a labyrinth. Labyrinths can be found at retreat centers, parishes and even at conferences. Of course, using the labyrinth as a prayerful tool is hardly new. Many of great medieval cathedrals in Europe, most notably Chartres Cathedral in France, contain the image of a labyrinth. A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness, combining the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no false hopes or dead ends. Rather, this slow, deliberate path is a metaphor for life’s journey, complete with its twists and its turns. No matter how seemingly long and circuitous the journey, one always reaches the center where God awaits.
Stepping into a labyrinth becomes a walking prayer and a walking meditation. It connects the mind, heart and body in shared purpose of moving towards God.
With each step into the labyrinth, I found my shoulders relaxing and my breathing steadied. The distractions and the anxieties of moment seemed to melt away from my body. My breath aligned with my steps and my prayer became rhythmic.
“Creator God, I breathe in You. I breath out fear and insecurity.”
We do not need a litany of the ways that our world is currently wounded and broken.
Yet, during those brief moments in the labyrinth, I was keenly aware of my own journey to God which included the steps and missteps, the fears and the hopes and ultimately the striving. Those steps were healing. Those steps were renewing.
When I reached the center, I looked up and smiled. For those brief moments in the labyrinth, God had offered me a sense of peace…an awareness of my own wholeness in Him.
Then, my prayerful reverie was broken when Daniel squealed and darted off back towards Mass on the Grass. As I stepped out of the labyrinth, I grinned yet again. God was inviting me back towards the center.