A labyrinth is a path that winds in unexpected ways into a central circle. Ours is a processional labyrinth, with a separate entrance and exit, enabling one to walk in and depart without interrupting another’s journey. Though our design is simpler than renowned ones at Chartres Cathedral, France and Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, it is inspired by an ancient “Cretan” labyrinth that dates back at least 3500 years. The colors chosen represent creation and earth, and symbolize abundance.
Take a closer look at the entrance tiles. They reveal an engraving “You will show me the path of life: in your presence there is fullness of joy.” In the words of Psalm 16, we are called to reflect on God’s abiding presence. The five loaves and two fishes near the center symbolize Jesus’ ability to nourish thousands of people from seemingly meager resources, a reference to the Gospel story in Matthew 14:13-21. It serves as a reminder of God’s abundance and provision.
The labyrinth was laid out in the Courtyard with its center line connecting Cowans Hall on the west side with the center of the Sanctuary on the east side, thereby aligning three places of nourishment. The 20-inch wide green path is bordered by aggregate, enabling people to walk with their eyes closed or barefoot. The labyrinth’s path first draws us into its center, then leads us back to outward reality at its end. Its public placement serves as an invitation to anyone seeking reflection, or desiring the exercise of walking with their mind at rest.
The labyrinth was funded in memory of Henry M. Cordes, Ph.D., professor of German literature at the College of San Mateo.
Guide to Walking the Labyrinth
Walking the labyrinth is meditative prayer. The labyrinth represents a pilgrimage and conscious taking of time to seek God. By taking the first step, we risk discovering the mystery at the very center of our being. It is an intentional choice to embark on a spiritual journey.
Because there is only one path to the center, there are no wrong turns in the labyrinth. Prepare to walk the labyrinth by consciously putting aside those things that may distract you from the full experience – your worries, daily errands, and so forth. Many people find it helpful to choose a word or image to focus their attention as they walk. Some suggestions are these: Light, Love, Holy One, Wisdom, Almighty God, Lead me O Lord, Spirit of God, descend upon my heart, O God, or make haste to help me. Alternatively, you may choose to simply lift up to your need for healing to God, or put your problems into God’s hands.
Walk the labyrinth at a pace which is comfortable for you. If others are walking at the same time, you may need to step around someone who is walking more slowly than you, or approaching from an opposite direction. When arriving at the center, stand or sit still for a while, try to relax and empty your mind of thoughts. This is when you might hear God’s answer to your prayers. When you are ready to go on, you may choose to walk directly out of the labyrinth using the short exit, or you may retrace the full path back to the entrance. You may become aware of a new direction you’ve been given, an increased level of energy, a gift or insight to share with others.
Resources for further study are available in the Saint Thomas library:
- Labyrinths from the Inside Out: Walking to Spiritual Insight by Donna Schaper and Carole Ann Camp, 2001, Skylight Paths Publishing
- Exploring the Labyrinth: A Guide for Healing and Spiritual Growth by Melissa West, 2000, Random House
- Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering The Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool by Lauren Artress, 1995, Riverhead Books
- “Rediscovering the Labyrinth: A Walking Meditation” video, produced by Lauren Artress