The circular pathway of inlaid stone in the center of the circle of oaks is a tool for walking prayer. It can be thought of as a metaphor for the Christian life, which is often described as a pilgrimage or journey with God, where we can grow closer in relationship with God, and in turn, closer to others. In this practice of prayer, we are fully engaging our minds, bodies, and spirits at the same time.
The labyrinth at St. David’s was created by parishioners in the fall of 1997, completed in the summer of 1998, and it is open to the community for walking.
The earliest known Christian labyrinth is located in a church in Algeria, with the words Sancta Eclesia (holy church) inscribed in its center. As early as A.D. 350, worshipers entering the church would trace the labyrinth with their finger in order to focus their thoughts and open themselves up to the presence of God.
In the Middle Ages, many cathedrals in Europe began to construct larger labyrinths. Christians who could not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would instead travel to these cathedrals to walk the labyrinth as a spiritual pilgrimage, symbolizing the journey to the Holy Land. The labyrinth in the floor of the nave at Chartres Cathedral in France is the most well known of these medieval designs.
The labyrinth may look like a maze, but it isn’t. There is only one path. There are no dead ends. No tricks or traps. Just a single path leading to the center. There are twists and turns, representative of life’s changes and new directions, and in this way it serves as a metaphor for the Christian life.
As one walks, one prays. For some the journey to the center may be a time to let go of everyday life, quiet the mind and seek the presence of God. At the center many walkers linger for a time, seeking the illumination of the Holy Spirit or opening themselves to the presence of God. In leaving, the walkers follow the same path that brought them to the center, still praying, yet taking with them what blessing, insight or answer to prayer they might have received.