Walking a Winding Path – Labyrinth as Rest and Refuge

Sanctuary is defined both as a place of refuge and as holy ground.  One of my favorite places of refuge on the tree lined campus of the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia is the 101 year old Krauth Memorial Library.  There in the upper rotunda is an eleven circuit Chartres-style labyrinth, described as a winding path to center and spend time at rest with God.

And walk the winding path I did this afternoon.  The late afternoon light streamed through the massive leaded gothic windows into the upper rotunda, casting shadows on me the only person in the space.  The dappled light illuminated limestone framed walls, my reflection and prayers as I walked the labyrinth.

The floor of the rotunda is covered in autumnal brown and rust colored low loop carpeting.  As I walked in stocking feet my footfalls fell softly and quietly.  All of my senses seemed to fade away as my focus shifted from following the path to praying and listening.  My inward walk was accompanied by John Bell’s of Psalm 46:10 from the Iona Community as a repeated refrain.

Be still and know, that I am God.  Be still and know, that I am God…

The cadence of this journey was timeless until I found myself in the center, breathing calmly and filled with a great sense of peace.  I relished those moments of refuge and lifted the prayers I had carried along the way.  I began the journey out of that place of centered stillness, walking slowly back to the demands of my day.  Again the words of a song were placed on my heart…

Calm to the waves.  Calm to the wind.  Jesus whispers, “Peace, be still.”  Balm to our hearts.  Fears at an end.  In stillness, hear his voice.

As I wound my way out, I noticed the stone cross outside the window that sits above the entrance to the library.  Through blurred glass and dancing sunrays, the cross was difficult to see or focus on.  As the setting sun faded behind wispy clouds and I walked on, it would become clearer and then fade from view.

When I walked the final leg of my winding journey, the sun brightened in the massive west facing window.  As I got closer to the end, the stately stone cross became clearer and clearer.  I stepped out of the labyrinth path, put my crossed arms on the windowsill and gave thanks for the gift of God and that holy ground at the foot of the now clear and rock solid cross.

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