Lent is a journey – an attempt to try again to live the Gospel – to achieve the Gospel Goal of loving friends as well as enemies, to respond with kindness rather than revenge, to care for others especially the poor. And to get to that place requires a journey away from old ways into new ways of responding. That way, that journey is mirrored in the labyrinth design shown above.
The Labyrinth is a kind of puzzle and the one pictured above is about 800 years old. The original labyrinth pattern, about forty feet wide is on the stone floor of hte Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres in France. Chartres was a no fun-and-games center, so what was the purpose of putting a puzzle in the middle of a cathedral? Chartres was one of the great sites of medieval pilgrimages. Like most of the cathredrals of Europe, it was also a great catechism. The stained glass windows, the marvel of the cathedral, contain over one thousand images of bibilcal stories, scenes of parables and saints. The cathedral was a giant technicolor theological textbook, and the labyrinth puzzle on the floor was perhaps the most important lesson for pilgrims who journeyed there. It provided an experiential teaching about hte journey of life.
Labyrinths are over 4,000 years old. The original ones appeared in the middle of the third century B.C. in Egypt. Some of them were below ground and some above ground. Some took on the form of walled gardens with tall hedges shaped in the form of a maze. Others are intricate passageways such as the one in the Chartres Cathedral.
The complex twisiting patterns of a maze have many loops. They take one back and forth, almost retracing the same path. There are blind alleys, dead ends and a few shortcuts. Nearly all labyrinths were intended to be maze maps reflecting each person’s journey to God.
As Lent begins, we need to ask ourselves where we are on this ancient map. As we find our place, whether at the beginning of the labyrinth, in the middle or near the end, we can ask another questions: “Where am I going?”
One thing is for certain. We know that our spiritual journey is like the tall walled maze. The journey to God is not some long linear path, but more like a complicated labyrinth.
As we begin our journey or continue our journey let’s pray for one another that we might discern the path, make the right turns, and get closer to Gospel Glory. Have a great labyrinthen lenten trip!
P.S. If you like to visit a real labyrinth you don’t have far to go! There is a wonderful labyrinth at Stella Maris Retreat Center in Elberon Click Here for more informaton about it.