The Pilgrimage Begins, a Sacred Journey
“Transformation and healing come as gifts from meeting with the living God—not from walking along a particular pattern or path. The labyrinth simply provides an opportunity for prayer.”
“The Pilgrimage Begins”
Adapted from Chapter Two of Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown
“To get you started on your sacred journey,” Katherine said, “we’ll begin with a mini-pilgrimage. Have any of you walked a labyrinth before?” A few hands went up around the room. “The one you’ll be walking today is the same pattern as the thirteenth-century labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France.”
She paused, looking intently at the group. “Now, I’ll be honest with you. Some Christians get nervous about labyrinths because they’re found in many cultural and spiritual traditions. After all, the circle and spiral are ancient symbols for wholeness and transformation, and some people claim that the labyrinth pattern itself is mystical.”
“Fabulous,” Charissa muttered.
“I don’t believe there’s anything inherently mystical about the labyrinth,” Katherine said. “Transformation and healing come as gifts from meeting with the living God—not from walking along a particular pattern or path. The labyrinth simply provides an opportunity for prayer. Remember, the intent of spiritual disciplines is to create space where we can encounter God—space where we can be deeply touched and changed by God’s extravagant love for us. In walking the labyrinth, we deliberately slow down to give God our prayerful attention. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us be fully present to the One who is always with us. We quiet ourselves so we can notice the stirrings of God and respond in love, faith, and obedience.”
Katherine picked up a stack of papers from her podium. “I’ll pass around handouts to your tables so you can read about the labyrinth in your groups. Then when you’re ready, head right out these exit doors and follow the path to the courtyard. Once you’ve finished walking and praying, come back inside, and we’ll share some reflections with one another, okay? And may you know God’s near presence as you walk together.”
Sacred Journey, New Hope Retreat Center
Session One: A Path for Prayer
Katherine Rhodes, Facilitator
Walking the labyrinth is a sacred journey of prayer. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth has a single winding path that leads to and from the center, with no obstacles or dead-ends. As you walk, there may be times when you’ll want to stop, rest, and listen. Journey at your own pace. If you do get lost or confused, feel free to step off the path and begin again.
While there is no set way to walk the labyrinth, some people find it helpful to picture the journey in three stages: the trip inward, the time at the center, and the trip outward.
Just as pilgrims deliberately leave behind the cares of the world to travel freely and lightly, so God invites us to let go of the things that clutter our lives. As you begin the journey, notice what distracts and hinders you. Notice what competes for your affection and attachment to Jesus. The journey to the center is an opportunity to release burdens, identify fears, and confess sins.
The center of the labyrinth is a resting place where you are held in God’s loving embrace. Linger as long as you wish, receiving whatever gifts of Scripture, insight, presence, peace, or revelation God gives. Simply enjoy being with God.
Then, whenever you are ready, begin the outward journey. Allow the Spirit to strengthen and empower you as you take God’s presence and gifts out into the world.
Located in Westmont, Illinois, InterVarsity Press has been publishing thoughtful Christian books for more than 70 years. An extension of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, IVP is a leading Christian publisher with a respected history providing resources that strengthen the church, encourage individuals, and shape the academy.
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