The Labyrinth: A Sacred Path for Pilgrims

Starting early in the first Century Christians made regular pilgrimages to the Holy Land with the desire to grow spiritually closer to Jesus. Eager to pray at the sites of Christ’s ministry, pilgrims walked hundreds of miles, praying and singing on the way. During the Middle Ages, this practice became impossible because of wars. To respond to the spiritual needs of the people many churches in France, England and Germany built labyrinths to enable pilgrims to make symbolic journeys to the “Holy Land”, striving to unite themselves in spirit with Christ.

The labyrinth at Nazareth is patterned after the one found in the Cathedral at Chartes, France, which dates back to the early 1200’s. This labyrinth is called a nine-circuit labyrinth because the path circles around the center nine times.

The Nazareth Labyrinth connects anyone walking it to the earth. The rocks which form the pattern are limestone from the surrounding area. The path is the grass which grows naturally here at Nazareth A labyrinth is not a maze, but the two are frequently confused. Mazes are puzzles designed to trick and confuse. A labyrinth’s purpose is to help the walker find her/his way. There is only one entrance that starts at the outer edge, goes into the center which then becomes the path back out.

The word labyrinth is also a medical term for the part of the inner ear that regulates balance. It is thought that the equal number of left and right turns in the design provide a psychological benefit to the walker in addition to any spiritual benefit one might receive in prayer.

The walk from the entrance of the labyrinth to its center represents the first part of this path. The walk into the center represents a letting go, or “purging” of things that interfere with the relationship with God. The center of the labyrinth symbolizes the place where the walker receives illumination or simply rests in whatever the experience offers. Retracing the path back to the entrance provides the opportunity to integrate any insights gained in the journey.

It is our hope that this path will become for you a special means to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ as it has for hundreds of years for other Christians.
There are a variety of ways one may walk the Labyrinth. Some walkers pray the rosary. Others quietly recite the “Jesus Prayer” (Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.) Scripture may be read or recited while walking to the center, reflected upon at the center then reflected on how to incorporate it into one’s life as the individual walks out. Make the walk one of gratitude: with free flowing thoughts. Say: “Thank you, Jesus for” and list everything which one is thankful for today.

At the entrance of the labyrinth, ask the question, “Who am I?” Choose a song, hymn or phrase that has personal meaning and repeat it over and over during the walk. Use the labyrinth to explore a dream or an image. Recall what is remembered of the dream and ask God’s help in understanding what it might mean. During the walk toward the center imagine your thirst—physical, spiritual, and emotional. Upon arrival at the center, con- sider the spiritual gifts God has given. Many simply experience a pleasant walk outdoors. Find a comfortable place to sit when finished walking and journal about any images, words or memories that surfaced during the walk.

The labyrinth at Nazareth was constructed by the gifted people who work here at Nazareth.

We are grateful to the many volunteers who actually placed each rock by hand to construct this sacred space.

We are especially grateful to the teens from Archbishop Williams High School who gave of their time and energy to complete the construction of the Nazareth Labyrinth (August 2012)