by Let Us Reason Ministries (Mike Oppenheimer)
Walking the labyrinth has become a popular spiritual exercise across the country and around the world. I first read of it in Leadership Magazine, a Christian publication and became a bit concerned, since looking into it further Iâ€™m definitely concerned.
Labyrinths are said to been used for over 3000-3500 years (depending who you ask), accurate dating has been difficult. We are told by those who promote their use that Labyrinths are ancient and have been a part of the sacred landscape through human history. Those who use the labyrinth describe them as a pattern with power and a purpose. They are called â€œdivine imprints,â€ that symbolize an archetype of wholeness. The Labyrinth is said to encourage healing, clarity, and peacefulness. There are claims of profound experiences as they affect the people who use them by connecting them with the deepest part of themselves. Labyrinths can often have a particular “specialty” in healing, improving ones health or alleviating symptoms of certain diseases.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia–Labyrinth is a complicated arrangement of paths and passages; or a place, usually subterraneous, full of windings, corridors, rooms, etc., so intricately arranged as to render the getting out of it a very difficult matter.
The Romans adopted the symbols as a floor pattern. In modern times the labyrinth can be traced to Catholic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. In the European cathedrals they were used traditionally as a site of pilgrimage. A promoter and authority on the modern Labyrinth, Rev. Artress, states in her research there were actually 22 Labyrinths in the 80 Gothic cathedrals that went up during the Middle Ages throughout Europe. Some of them were pilgrimage cathedrals. Chartres was one of the major pilgrimage cathedrals. Early Christians took a vow to visit the Holy City of Jerusalem at some point in their lives. During the middle ages the Crusades made travel to Palestine unsafe, so they used other means to honor their commitment. Labyrinths were used as a substitute pilgrimage experience for the holy land. Adopted by the Roman Catholic Church Labyrinths were offered to the congregation as a way of fulfilling their vow to visit the holy land and nicknamed the it, â€œNew Jerusalem.â€ Christians using it as a symbol instead made their pilgrimages to the cathedral cities of Chartres, Rheims or Amiens. Geometrical designs were composed from various pieces of coloured marbles set in the floors of the European Cathedrals. In Chartres Cathedral in France there is an intricate 40 foot diameter labyrinth of tile imbedded in the floor of the central area of the church. “With an emphasis on rationalism in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, labyrinths fell out of favor and were looked upon as child’s play or distractions. As a result, many were torn out of the cathedrals. Chartres’ survived, but for a time was covered with chairs so that it could not be walked on. Indeed, until recently, the cathedral was better known for its stained-glass windows than for the labyrinth on its floor.”
Read more …