Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center has an outdoor 11-circuit prayer labyrinth fashioned in Chartres-style design and set within a meditation garden. The prayer labyrinth features a path that winds through the circular symbol, leading to the center. The path has no dead ends or false starts, but leads simply and quietly, eventually to the center and then back again.
Prayer labyrinths offer an opportunity to be quietly focused while journeying into a place of peace. Learn more about the history of labyrinths and then complete our at home labyrinth activity.
History of the Prayer Labyrinth
The prayer labyrinth is an ancient circular pattern containing a meandering pathway that leads eventually to the center of the circle. The labyrinth’s Christian history dates as far back as the fourth century, at which time a labyrinth was imbedded into the floor of a basilica in Algeria. Early labyrinths contained four circuits on which devout people would slowly meander while praying and seeking repentance and forgiveness.
In the Middle Ages, it was common for Christians to make a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem, which they considered the center of their world. Around the 12th century, when it became too dangerous for Christians to travel to Jerusalem, several cathedrals containing 11-circuit labyrinths served as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The labyrinths in these pilgrimage cathedrals came to be called the “Chemin de Jerusalem” or Road of Jerusalem. The beautiful labyrinth in the cathedral in Chartres, France has been preserved from these days of pilgrimage.
At Home Labyrinth
A great way to experience the peace of a labyrinth at home, is by using a finger labyrinth. Download this finger labyrinth and use text below as a guide for your practice.
- Set an intention for your finger “walk” – this may be a question, a prayer or a mantra
- Place a finger at the entrance to the labyrinth and begin to trace the path
- As your finger moves toward the center release and let go of daily concerns and details of life. This is a time of shedding emotions, quieting and emptying the mind.
- When your finger arrives at the center, pause for prayer and quiet. Be open to the presence of God and connect to your own center. Relax, pray, or just pause in silence and openness of heart and mind.
- When you feel the time is right, start to move your finger back out. As you move outward, stay open to whatever feelings, sensations, or images come to you. Listen to God as He leads you out into the world. Become aware of your needs and the needs of others.
- When you are done, reflect and give thanks for what you learned and experienced.
There are as many ways of “walking” a labyrinth as there are people that “walk” it. KNow that there is no right or wrong way. However you choose to interact with God is the right way for you and will be different each time you journey to the center and back.
Prayerful Ways of Approaching the Labyrinth
With openness – asking God, “What do you want to show me or have me know?”
With intercessory prayer offered for someone, or a situation, or a need.
With reflection about your life or a significant concern.
With a quiet mind, releasing and letting go of daily concerns and details of your life, as an act of shedding emotions.