First Presbyterian:  Church on the Edge
5555 South Washington, Grand Forks, North Dakota, (701) 775-5545, email:   firstpres@firstpresgf.org

The First Presbyterian labyrinth is open by request.  The outdoor labyrinth is available whenever weather permits.

Walking a Sacred Path

The Labyrinth

Walking the Labyrinth

The labyrinth in an ancient symbol of spiritual journey.  Labyrinths existed 4000-5000 years ago.  The oldest known labyrinth is a rock carving at Luzzanas in Sardinia.  The Classic labyrinth was carved on coins on the island of Crete about 3000 years ago.  It 's mentioned in Greek mythology.  Labyrinths have been found in pottery and woven into baskets from widely-separated civilizations existing more than 3000 years ago.  In Native American spirituality, they take the form of the spiral.

The labyrinth at Chartres cathedral in France was built about 1100 AD.  It was one of seven cathedral labyrinths built in Europe during the Crusades.  These labyrinths may have been a place for people to take a mini-pilgrimage when it wasn 't safe to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of the war.

All labyrinths are unicursal, meaning they have a single path from the entrance to the center.  Unlike mazes, there are no choices to make about the way to go, no dead ends and no way to get lost.  The winding path may remind walkers of the ways that life sometimes wanders, but the path always takes one to the center, which represents the presence of God.  While mazes offer both good and bad choices, the only choice offered by the labyrinth is to enter or not.  The invitation is open and the space is welcoming.

The Chartres labyrinth has 11 circuits, meaning there are 11 paths from the edge to the center.  These may be representative of Cicero 's cosmology (Earth the center, moon, sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the signs of the zodiac, soul, mind, Supreme God the One)  The places where the path turns looks like a labrys or double-headed axe, and may be the source of the name labyrinth.  The center forms a rose, which is a symbol for Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The six petals of the center have been identified with the six kingdoms of creation:  mineral, vegetable, animal, human, angelic, divine.  The labyrinth in the cathedral floor is 42 feet across, making the path 861.5 feet long.  It is laid out using a 13-point star, a form from sacred geometry.  Around the labyrinth there are four sets of 28 1/2 lunations, named for the lunar month they may represent.

Walking the labyrinth Labyrinth walkers may use the time to pray for people they care about, to think deeply about a question or situation in their lives, to name blessings God has given them, or to enjoy the quiet time away from life 's stresses.  Labyrinths can be a tool for physical or emotional healing.  They can be walked individually or as a family or group activity.

Some who walk the labyrinth think of the walk as three parts to a spiritual journey.   The walk from the entrance to the center is purgation, a laying aside of those things which trouble or burden our lives.  Along the path we shed the things of the world.  In the center we find illumination as we encounter the truth of God and learn more about our true selves.  On the return path, we experience union with God and integrate what we have found in the center into the lives we take up as we return to the world.

Labyrinth walkers often find that the physical act of moving along the path helps them to focus their minds on God.  Some will walk in silence within and without and enjoy the feeling of walking with God.  Others will repeat familiar prayers such as the Lord 's Prayer or the rosary.  Some people bring a question to the labyrinth and find that some of the strands untangle and become more clear as they walk.  Answers to questions may come in a word or phrase heard with the inner voice, or in symbols which appear to the inner eye.  Sometimes the answer is a rephrasing of the initial question.  Other people come with an open mind and find they are directed to new insights during the walk.  The labyrinth is a good place to consider the meaning of a dream, to sort out the pros and cons of an important decision,  or to pray for people important to you.   One woman names a new person for whom to pray each time she turns a corner.  Those who are grieving may walk the labyrinth in celebration of the life of a loved one or of a chapter of life which is closing.  A labyrinth walk can be a way to celebrate an important occasion in life, a birth, a new job, the completion of an important project.

The experience of walking varies from time to time, and is often different form what is expected.  It can be helpful to walk several times during a retreat period.  Although the experience is quite different if walked alone or with a group, both can be significant.  The labyrinth is a appropriate site for a Taize service, a healing service, or a concert of quiet music.

People who walk the labyrinth often pause at the entrance to offer a quiet prayer or even just take a deep breath and center their thoughts.  Walkers may move at any speed and may stop along the way as often as they wish.  It 's perfectly alright to step around someone on the path; you may choose to greet those you meet or to remain focused inwardly.  Some like to kneel or sit for a while in the center.

Outdoor labyrinth at First Presbyterian

The labyrinth at First Presbyterian Church, Grand Forks,  is currently on hiatus; watch the weekly calendar for open times. Everyone is welcome to walk whenever the labyrinth is open.  The people of the church spread the labyrinth in the sanctuary and warm it with prayer so that it's ready for those who will come to pray.  A new outdoor labyrinth in the lawn just south of the church building is available whenever weather permits.

We believe that the presence of the labyrinth in the community changes the quality of community life, when people are walking and when they are not.  Because the canvas labyrinth was purchased with gifts we received after the flood of 1997, we offer it as a gift to others and do not charge for its use.  When people choose to support the costs of the labyrinth ministry with donations, we are grateful.

" I am the light of the world.   Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." - Jesus

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