Fr Ian writes
Before I went on one of my ‘pilgrimages’ in my sabbatical I decided to prepare by walking a labyrinth. I’d not always felt they were for me. However, a book on pilgrimage suggested it, so I thought ‘Why not?’ Fortuitously I found the church where I had been a curate has introduced a lovely inlaid one in their south transept. I walked it. The twists and turns, the silences and the pauses, had a profound and slightly disturbing effect. They prepared me to be open to spiritual things on the journey I was to take.
Surprisingly labyrinths became one of the features of my journey in Norway. I’d always associated them as a modern reworking of an ancient symbol. In fact the labyrinth is found in many different cultures at many different times. At Holmengrå near Varangerfjord in the far north of Norway I came across a turf labyrinth which, it is believed, was made about 1400 by indigenous Sami people.
Then in Oslo I walked (in part) the amazing large 20th century labyrinth of Gustav Vigeland in the wonderful Vigelands Park.
The important thing about the labyrinth is that it is a simple path (not a maze) going nowhere. The slow walking is the point. The focus on the walk and the pause in life is what it is about. It is a laid out path but it is not a laid out spiritual experience, it encourages one to walk and encounter new spiritual realities and insights.
A few weeks later I came across a portable labyrinth at Gorton Monastery and talked with Simon, the volunteer who had made it. He has kindly offered to help us make a canvas portable labyrinth which we can put out from time to time. Rosie, our parish assistant is going to help this come about.
Solvitur ambulado – ‘It is solved by walking,’ – a saying often attributed to St Augustine of Hippo – What ‘it‘ is depends on who we are and where we are. We’ll discover more about the labyrinth as time goes on. I’m looking forward to walking our labyrinth in Church. I know it will enrich my spiritual life and the spiritual lives of others.