The Labyrinth: Ancient Mystery, Modern Journey to Peace

Labyrinths are ancient designs like mazes used for spiritual enlightenment, relaxation, prayer and meditation. Inherent in all great mysteries, the origins of labyrinths are not quite known. Though documented in many ancient civilizations, even predating Christianity, it was adopted readily by Christians as far back as Roman times as a means to draw one closer to God.

Different patterns are found among ancient civilizations, such as the design used by the Hopi people of the desert Southwest, a rather simple pattern of weaving and concentric circles. Perhaps the most famous labyrinth is found in Chartres Cathedral in France, a replica of which is found in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral.

Vision Quest(tm) labyrinth design copyright 1997  - photograph courtesy of www.LabyrinthCompany.com

Takoma Park Presbyterian Church recently acquired a labyrinth as part of a worship renewal grant through Calvin College and the Lilly Endowment as a means to enhance contemplative worship. An activist community grounded in the belief of peace and justice, the labyrinth, acquired post-September 11, was a way to help the community find peace and shelter from the stresses of daily life.

The labyrinth was dedicated at a six-month anniversary of September 11 at a memorial service of sacred music and dance exploring the depths of the human experience of this tragedy and the journey to find divinity's saving grace. The Vision Quest(TM), a modified design of Chartres labyrinth, was dedicated to world peace. The designer of the Vision Quest, David Totzmann in Baltimore, MD, has specially designed this labyrinth for Takoma Park Presbyterian Church and its space.

David Tolzmann, Chief Geometer and Labyrinth Builder for The Labyrinth Company in Baltimore - photograph courtesy of www.LabyrinthCompany.com

David Tolzmann, Chief Geometer and Labyrinth Builder for The Labyrinth Company in Baltimore, believes labyrinths are the most accessible and adaptable form of meditation available. "I have been blessed to be involved in the creation of sacred spaces across this country and abroad which have positively affected the lives of literally thousands of spiritual seekers of all creeds and religions. We are building labyrinths for hospitals, schools, prisons and meditation garden settings at an ever increasing pace."

In modern times the labyrinth has seen a comeback, celebrating the ancient ritual through walking prayer and meditations. Sometimes, created as part of elaborate landscaping techniques, they are made of stone, hedges, masonry, and tile. With plans to build an outdoor labyrinth, the Rev. John Largen of the Lutheran Southern Seminary in South Carolina says, "for myself, the labyrinth is one useful method of prayer among many. Part of what I think is interesting and helpful about this form of prayer is that it involves movement. It particularly helps folks who have a hard time with contemplative prayer."

Vision Quest(TM) Labyrinth with walkers - photograph courtesy of www.LabyrinthCompany.com

"Movement with conscious intent is a means of grounding and finding serenity in a world that does not always promise safe harbor. Like so many spiritual experiences, one cannot describe it in words, it is in the experience that pilgrims find their own revelations. Through its great mystery, it also connects us to all of those who have made the journey before us," says project director and liturgical dancer, Frances Eargle. "We are very blessed with its presence and believe it will have a dramatic impact on our community."

The public is invited to use the labyrinth at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church in the Assembly Room during our monthly labyrinth walks, which will start again in September 2003 on the third Friday of every month. For more information, visit the TPPC website at http://www.takomaparkpc.org/labyrinth.html or call the church office at (301) 270-5550. For more information about labyrinths go to www.labyrinthsociety.org.

All photographs on this page appear courtesy of www.LabyrinthCompany.com. Vision Quest(tm) labyrinth design copyright 1997 The Labyrinth Company.