This week I have been thinking about labyrinths. Not the David Bowie or Dedalus and the Minotaur kind but the historical Christian kind.
The kind of labyrinth, pictured above, drawn on the floor of a cathedral or laid outside with rocks or turf. It is one continuous, weaving pathway that turns and twists but has no dead ends. The pathway leads the pilgrim into the centre where they meet with God and then journey back out into the world.
There are three parts to the labyrinth journey:
Purgation - letting go of thoughts and distractions that cloud our minds and moving towards a mind, heart, and soul singularly focused on the Triune God.
Illumination - when the pilgrim stands in the centre and meets with God to receive guidance, healing, answers, and as a result - intimacy.
Union - the journey back into the world where you walk in a new intimacy and new life with God.
My own personal journey with peace has been a pilgrimage with many twists and turns. I have wondered about, sought after, thought about and desired peace more deeply than any other promise of Jesus.
And the “peace” week of Advent is the week I feel the most yearning in my heart. Where “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is sung with an ache. When I feel disappointed with a perceived lack of movement by God in a violent and angry world. When the “not yet” part of the Kingdom seems more apparent than the “already” part. And when I feel a heightened awareness of the lack of peace within my own heart.
So….what about the labyrinth?
The labyrinth is a physical expression of an inward reality. It is a journey inward, inviting Jesus into the depths and core of who you are and meeting with him there. And, what I am learning is that this is the same journey I must go on to receive peace.
It is so easy for me to blame my own lack of peace on the outward world. On the poor leadership in our governments, on greed and injustice, or other people’s brokenness. I can easily blame my own inner unrest on the size of the house I live in, on finances, on my spouse, on my children, on my lack of bodily health. Everyone can be to blame for my own anxieties, fears, and struggles.
For a long time this is how I lived. If I could just sort out and control my outward world, the inner world would be at rest.
But peace has nothing to do with my outward circumstances and everything to do with my inward reality.
The labyrinth reminds me that the way to peace is a pilgrimage hand in hand with Jesus into the centre of my being. Allowing the light of his strength, love, and compassion shine on the hardest parts of my heart and transform them through his forgiveness, healing, wisdom, and presence.
And this gift of peace then shapes everything I see and do in the world. The Kingdom of God comes in each of us and this is how the world is changed. It is changed inwardly and then outwardly because how can we hope to be peacemakers if we are at war within ourselves?
Peace is a gift, the gift of Jesus himself. It is the gift of his presence in parts of our lives that feel alone, unloved, wounded, defensive, in need of forgiveness - both ourselves and offered to others. It is the gift and knowledge of his sovereignty in places where we feel out of control.
It is a journey - one of repentance and humility, sometimes pain but ultimately freedom, joy, and peace. And you are invited into this during Advent and everyday after Advent.
Let me invite you, this week, to take a labyrinth walk. To cast off your distractions, focus on Christ, meet with him in your inner world and receive the gift of peace. Find that he is gentle, kind, and incredibly powerful. Find that he is truly the Prince of Peace and that his Kingdom shall have no end. Find that that the true gift we celebrate at Christmas is the gift of Jesus. The gift of himself wherever we will allow him. And may you find the gift of peace anew in your life. I will leave you with this prayer.
Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.
(Augustine, 354 - 430)
Peace be with you my friends.