Our lives are sacred journeys in which we encounter joy, sorrow, growth, defeat grief, celebrations, changes, and all the other experiences that challenge and transform our understanding of life. The labyrinth functions as a meditation or prayer tool to help us focus and encounter the sacredness of our changing life.
A labyrinth has no dead ends or puzzles to be solved. (If it did, it would be recognized as a maze.) A labyrinth has one path IN and the same path OUT. Walking a labyrinth is not as task. It is an invitation to use our gifts of creativity, imagination and receptiveness to the presence of all that his holy in our life.
The journey takes us inward toward our center and then back out into the word with new insights into ourselves and God's presence. It is not magic. It is like a prayer in motion, through which we may receive guidance, new questions, or simply silence and peace.
The presence of a labyrinth in a Christian setting may be new for many people even though it is an ancient sacred symbol used by all spiritual traditions. Christian labyrinths seem to have been in use very early in the history of the Church, but their use grew dramatically around the 1200's following the Crusades. When Christians tried to claim the Bible lands as Christian territory, they were successful in capturing Jerusalem in 1096AD. It then became a "spiritual obligation" that a "faithful Christian" would take at least one "pilgrimage journey" to Jerusalem during their lifetime. But when the Christians were pushed out of the Bible lands around the year 1200, it became impossible to fulfill this pilgrimage obligation. In place of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Christian churches in Europe and other regions began to use labyrinths as a tool for spiritual pilgrimages. Many of the great historical cathedrals had labyrinths built directly into the floors of the cathedrals (pews were not yet in used, so the labyrinths were much more visible). The practice tended to fade by the early 1700's, but with the business of people's lives, in modern times, there has been a spiritual awakening and a desire for labyrinths across the world. In Wisconsin alone, there have been over 300 different kinds of labyrinths build in various communities in the past 20 years.