Labyrinth: Prayer Through Walking
The labyrinth is a sacred pattern that leads you on a prescribed path to its center and back out again.
Walking the labyrinth is a way of praying with the body that invites the divine presence into an active conversation with the heart and soul. By engaging in this walking meditation, we are fully engaging our minds, bodies, and spirits at the same time.
The Cathedral offers opportunities to walk the labyrinth on the last Tuesday of each month as part of the evening Cathedral Crossroads program.
The earliest known Christian labyrinth is located in a church in Algeria, with the words Sancta Eclesia (holy church) inscribed in its center. As early as A.D. 350, worshipers entering the church would trace the labyrinth with their finger in order to focus their thoughts and open themselves up to the presence of God.
In the Middle Ages, many cathedrals in Europe began to construct larger labyrinths. Christians who could not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would instead travel to these cathedrals to walk the labyrinth as a spiritual pilgrimage, symbolizing the journey to the Holy Land. The labyrinth in the floor of the nave at Chartres Cathedral in France is the most well known of the medieval designs and is the pattern used in the canvas replica at Washington National Cathedral.
The labyrinth is composed of eleven circuits and is divided into four quadrants, clearly defined by a cross. The center of the labyrinth is a rose-shaped area for resting, prayer, or meditation.
Guide to walking the labyrinth
There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Some people walk with the intention of addressing an issue in their lives, others to pray and meditate. It is helpful to pause before you enter to center your thoughts on your intention.
Walk between the lines of the circuit, being aware that you are sharing the labyrinth with others. You may pass other walkers, or let them step around you. When you reach the center you have entered the most sacred space in the labyrinth. The center is a place to pause, reflect, and receive insight.
Walking the path back out of the labyrinth is a time for deep reflection and a chance to consider what it might mean for your daily living. Once you have completed your labyrinth walk, you may want to find a quiet place in the nave or Cathedral chapels to sit and reflect. Our hope is that you will leave with renewed vision and a refreshed spirit.