Update World Labyrinth Day and Christ The True Vine

Apparently 5th May has been designated World Labyrinth Day which is serendipitous as this post a couple of days ago had a boat labyrinth image.

Who gets to designate these days I wonder ? 
Catherine Wybourne at i-Benedictines wrote  a lovely post a while back on the plethora of these days when she said:
"I have ‘Awareness Day’ fatigue. Too many good causes ask me to be ‘aware’ of this or that, to give my time, energy, money or what you will; to tweet or wear a ribbon; it is all too much..."

                                                                        Labyrinth Tina Negus 

Anyway, Christine Sine has collected a fine set of resources on labyrinths at her site here and she says this: 

" Many Christians, because of the non Christian roots of this tool are skeptical and even condemning of its use. This is a well balanced article that explains some of these concerns."These were a couple of links from Christine's site I found of particular use : this one     and this one.

My Own Reflections On Labyrinths

Reading Christine's post set me off thinking about labyrinths and I thought I would add a few extra thoughts and links of my own but there is a mass of stuff on this so one post is not adequate. I may do more some time ...I may not ...

I like the idea that labyrinths have associations with pilgrimage, particularly in the Christian context.  Christians had a religious practice of going on pilgrimages to holy sites; many wanted to make the journey to Jerusalem. 
 That pilgrimage was, however, expensive, arduous, dangerous, and often impossible while the Holy Land was in the possession of the Muslims. Consequently a substitute was needed - a pilgrimage to a famous cathedral where a labyrinth was installed as a symbol of 'the road to Jerusalem
The idea that the Labyrinth can be a symbol of the spiritual journey to the centre of God and the idea that it can be used as an outward sign of an inner pilgrimage is useful. This one explores the mythical story of the Minotaur and its symbolism.

This is one definition..
"A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own centre and God  and back again out into the world."
Source: The Labyrinth

Image source 

Maybe it is just the walking itself that allows us to slow down and be open to God that facilitates the intimacy of the encounter and the revelations therein, just like the walk to Emmaus. Are they liminal spaces ?

Update ;St Teresa of Avila in her Interior Castle likens her spiritual struggles to a spiral labyrinth Click here for more

and an essay on the symbolism and imagery of her spiral interior castle here.

 St Teresa of Avila Spiral Transit Interior Castle source

It is fascinating that many labyrinth designs echo spirals in nature, from a snail’s shell to the inner ear to the winding of a bean vine as it springs from the earth and this links to this Sunday's Gospel tells that Jesus is the true vine and we are His branches.

                                                      Vine Labyrinth Altarcloth source
                             The parishioners planted a real vineyard in this labyrinth shape

Evidence of labyrinths have been found in many cultures from ancient Crete as well as Europe, India and the American Southwest. 
A famous church labyrinth in the United States is Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the magnificent one shown below in Chartres Cathedral, France, dated from about 1200 AD is well known.

This video gives a fine account of it combined with a history of Chartres ...

Walking the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth from UofUHumanities on Vimeo.

There is a link to some here in Ireland and another here.

They have certainly become popular again in Christian churches and have cropped up in many hospitals, and spiritual centres. 

Click here for a beautiful example of how labyrinths have been used in a healthcare setting in the USA.

Some uses of labyrinths are too New Agey for me and I am sceptical of the way they often become yet another esoteric fad. 
Yet done sensitively they are a helpful way into prayer and reflection.

John O' Donohue puts the simplistic use of them well : 

 “I do not wish to criticize any system that can nourish people’s spirits, but I find that a lot of New Age practices cherry-pick the attractive bits from the ancient traditions and makes collages of them; it usually excises the ascetic dimension. In general it is not rigorously thought out, but is what I would call “soft” thinking.”
John O'Donohue

                                                                       Labyrinth plaque source
So what value does a labyrinth have as a spiritual exercise ?

Perhaps it is because the focus is about putting trust in taking one small slow meandering step at a time, and trusting that the journey always lead to the Centre of God even when it appears counterintuitive as you are travelling in the opposite direction !

 John O Donohue's words get closer to some interpretation when he says :

 “When time is reduced to linear progress, it is emptied of presence.”
John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

and we would all prefer and benefit from making space to living like this:

“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder. ” 

The labyrinth experience may be part of that yearning to connect to that sense.
John O'Donohue's poem below also evokes the sense of slowness,midfulness and reflection that tracing a labyrinth can bring about.

                               Land's End Labyrinth: not the Land's End in Cornwall UK 
                     but the one with Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco in background

You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until its calmness can claim you.” 

John O'Donohue

This beautiful poem by Meister Eckhart elicits a wonderful labyrinth and spiral like quality of how God works and once again it also links to the theme of this Sunday's Gospel of Jesus as the True Vine and we His branches.....

God created all things in such a way
That they are not outside himself,
As ignorant people falsely imagine.

All creatures flow outward, but nonetheless remain with God.

God created all things in this way:

Not that they might stand outside of
God, nor alongside God,
Nor beyond God.
But that they might

Come into God
And receive God
And dwell in God.

For this reason everything that is

Is bathed in God,
Is enveloped by God,
Who is round-about us all, enveloping us.

~Meister Eckhart

Vine and Branches Altar :  Isn't This Lovely ?

This Sunday's Gospel Jn 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.

Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

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