One Entrance, One Path, One Destination: The Foot of the Cross
Follow the Path
The Cross Labyrinth is designed for use in the Christian walk, guided by scripture.
"I am determined to be a Bible Christian, not almost, but altogether."
--John Wesley's "Sermons," Vol. II., p. 439.
About the Cross Labyrinth
This page provides information about the origins and symbolism in The Cross Labyrinth, from the basics of its seven-circuit design to its unique connection with the Easter cycle of the church calendar.
Like many people, my first experience with labyrinth prayers and meditation used a reproduction of the 11-circuit Chartres Labyrinth. One of the most important suggestions that I received was that I should plan to walk the labyrinth at least twice. The first time would be meaningful, but the second time would be much deeper spiritually because the path would be less of a distraction and more of a journey to a sacred place. For me, that was wonderful advice. The first time into the labyrinth was a good, but it was the second time that helped me begin to experience that special and unique encounter with God that comes in pilgrimage.
A few years later I was involved with a retreat center that wanted to add a prayer labyrinth to its grounds. A youth choir from a church volunteered to install one and conducted a "brick drive" in their congregation. Members donated funds and bricks to supply materials to line the path of the labyrinth. They gathered over 1,000 bricks for the project!
They originally envisioned installing a Chartres design but we encountered some limitations, especially in the time available to complete the project. They planned the project during a weekend when they also needed to rehearse and perform a concert, attend worship, and fulfill other commitments. There were also space limitations that would have made an 11-circuit labyrinth unworkable. When you add the prospect of supervising dozens of youth to lay bricks in concentric circles with only about a foot of separation between each path, alternatives quickly became attractive. We used the Cross Labyrinth that I designed with straight paths, simple layout, and clear Christian symbolism.
As it turned out, most of the choir's work time was rained out. The youth installed almost the entire labyrinth in a three-hour window between heavy showers. Several hours of follow up work were needed to finish a few areas, and a men's fellowship group later constructed a wooden cross that now lies in the center of the labyrinth. It has been well used ever since.
Symbol of the Cross
The central symbol of The Cross Labyrinth is obvious--the cross. The cross has been a symbol associated with Christianity at least since the second century A.D. Indeed, it becomes difficult to separate the cross from Christian teaching based on the words of Christ Himself in Matthew 16:24: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The theme of the cross continues in Paul's letters to the early church, especially the Corinthians, Galations, and Philippians, all written in the first century.
The cross at the center of the labyrinth has been used in many ways by pilgrims who have taken the journey. Some simply look on the cross and consider the sacrifice of our Lord. Others touch the wood, feeling its hard, rough edges. Some youth have even laid on the cross to put themselves in Jesus' place. For each one, it is a moving experience.
Symbolism in the Seven Circuits
The seven circuits are also symbolic. Seven, of course, is the number of days of the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis. The number seven appears repeatedly throughout the scriptures, including its frequent usage in the apocolyptic imagery of the book of Revelation. It is often viewed as a number of completion. When a pilgrim completes seven circuits in The Cross Labyrinth, they arrive in the center, at the foot of the cross.
Seven is also a number of wholeness or "one-ness." It is equal to the sum of three and four. Three is a number associated with God. For example, God is understood in the three persons of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Four is associated with earth or creation. When the Creator (three) and creation (four) are at one, their sum is equal to seven.
The symbolism of one-ness is reflected in the path of the Cross Labyrinth. Four circuits lie inside the arms of the cross and represent creation in need of salvation. The other three circuits surround the cross, and represent God's presence always surrounding us. The two outer circuits are continuous. The third, the one closest to the cross, is broken, just as our Savior's body was broken on the cross.
Unique Connection with the Easter Cycle of the Church Calendar
The Cross Labyrinth design also has a special and unique connection with the Easter cycle of the church calendar. There are forty-seven straight lines from the entrance to the center. These correspond with the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. A pilgrim who enters the labyrinth on Ash Wednesday and advances one line each day will arrive at the foot of the cross on Easter Sunday.
If the pilgrim then spends two days at the cross contemplating Christ as the resurrection and the life, then the return journey will begin on the following Wednesday. By retracing the lines one day at a time, the pilgrim will exit the labyrinth on the day of Pentecost.
This ninety-six day cycle repeats every year, making The Cross Labyrinth a very useful and meaningful design for people who desire to deepen their relationship with God through the seasons of Lent and Eastertide.
Copyright 2009 by CARadke, All Rights Reserved