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St. Philip's Episcopal To Construct A Sacred Labyrinth


Last updated 3/27/2019 at 4:18pm

Brevard will be home to a sacred labyrinth to be constructed at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church as an offering to the community as a space for meditation and contemplation, renewal and rejuvenation.

While most people in this area are quite familiar with the corn mazes that appear every autumn, a labyrinth is a very different kind of path to walk. A maze attempts to stump the walker by providing dead ends and wrong turns hidden inside high walls of corn that obscure view of the path. A labyrinth, with great pre-Christian and Christian symbolism, has but one well-marked and visible path to the center and back out. The looping and weaving across its face are what produces the aid to prayerfulness.

According to the Labyrinth Society, the labyrinth goes back 6,000 years or more. Roughly five centuries before Christ, the seven-circuit “classical” labyrinth design appeared on coins in Crete. The Vikings used the labyrinth in springtime rituals with young men and their fair maidens. There have been Native American labyrinths uncovered in the southwest.

There are some scholars who have identified a geometric pattern in the classical seven-circuit labyrinth that corresponds to the movement of Mercury — hence the fact that labyrinths appear in such diverse cultures over such long periods of time. Since Mercury was the Messenger God, the fact that many people use labyrinths to aid them in listening is not unusual. Beginning in the Middle Ages, Christianity adopted the very stylized Roman labyrinth as a symbol, amending the design to imbue it with specifically Christian meaning. For almost a thousand years there has been an identifiable Christian labyrinth tradition. This movement reached its first peak at Chartres Cathedral, in France, with the installation of an elegant labyrinth into the nave floor in 1201 during the construction of the magnificent new Gothic structure and since the 1980s has been experiencing a magnificent renewal in the culture.

Soon the people of Brevard will have the opportunity to experience all that a sacred labyrinth has to offer. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is in the process of raising funds to construct a large labyrinth on its grounds. Situated near the Visitor’s Center, Silvermont and the Farmers’ Market — and within walking distance of downtown — the labyrinth will be located in a grassy area behind the church surrounded by native plants, resting benches and trees. There will be information available on how to walk the labyrinth and there will be periodic instructional sessions offered to churches or groups wishing to learn more about how to walk the labyrinth.

St. Philip’s wants the labyrinth to be an offering to the community and a sense of community is one of the other attributes of a labyrinth – in that numerous people can walk simultaneously some going inward and others outward – and some resting and listening together in the center.

As soon as additional funds are raised, St. Philip’s will order a labyrinth kit with hundreds of pre-cut pavers and then local stone workers will prepare the grounds and install it. Hopefully, it will be ready to use this year. Any individuals, churches or organizations wishing to contribute can send a donation to St. Philip’s at 256 E. Main St., marked Labyrinth Fund.

The labyrinth is an aid to spiritual growth. As such, labyrinths have been and are located at churches, retreat centers, schools and hospitals. According to Robert Ferre, of Labyrinth Enterprises, there are numerous reasons for walking a labyrinth as a tool for spirituality.

He notes that it has universal appeal to not only those affiliated with a faith community but also to those who are seeking a deeper way to experience life. Labyrinths have been used by churches, schools, self-help groups, groups that advocate for victims, the grieving, and those in medical or mental health treatment. It is also suitable for children who seem to intuitively know how to benefit from following the path in and out.

In addition, it bridges the space between traditional symbolism and rites and the needs of people living in contemporary society. While its origins are ancient, the labyrinth offers people today a way to step away from the daily routine and the mundane and walk toward the center on a meandering path that allows us to shed our cares and preoccupations. When the center is reached, there is time for the individual to stop and reflect. As the path outward is traversed, the walker is often blessed with new awareness or a sense of renewal. Lauren Artres, of the Labyrinth Movement, notes that one of the most powerful aspects of the labyrinth is that it is not only something that affects us spiritually, but it also involves us physically. The simple act of simply putting one foot in front of another over and over again while following the outlined path leads to deeper involvement with the practice of personal growth and refreshment.

St. Philip’s invites all to help in making this a reality but even more to participate in the pilgrimage like journey of walking the sacred path and receiving the gifts of renewal of spirit. May 4 is World Labyrinth Day and to celebrate and to continue the fundraising efforts for the community labyrinth, St Philip’s will be hosting a guest speaker on May 3 to talk about labyrinth walking and will have its indoor canvas labyrinth available for walking that weekend. Watch for more details on all the upcoming events.


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