Emmaus Labyrinths (Introduction)

I left on a Friday morning to go on a journey walking labyrinths. I love walking labyrinths, the ancient spiritual tool of walking something that looks like a maze but isn’t, of tracing an intricate path over a small area, of following the twists and turns where they lead, perhaps in rhythm with the twists and turns of my own mind. Labyrinths have been used for centuries, millennia, by people of many faith traditions. Today, at least in my region of the United States, many labyrinths are built outside on the grounds of churches, but they can also be found in other places as well.

For the past few years, I’ve been traveling from my home to walk many labyrinths, and I’ve been blogging about them, sharing a little information about the particular labyrinth itself, as well as my experience while walking it. Once, in the halcyon pre-COVID days, I took a trip of several days, and drove around western New York state, walking many labyrinths and blogging about it. I had been craving another trip like this for a long time.

On a Friday, I left on another one. I didn’t know how long I would be out on this journey, or how many labyrinths I’d walk. All I knew was that I had plans to spend Friday night at an old friend’s cabin, and that I had to be back home by the following Thursday.

Usually when I walk a labyrinth, I ask a question before I begin walking, usually a question about myself or about the world or about my relationship with God. Sometimes I ask for guidance, sometimes for comfort. This time, I think I was looking in general for insight and for a sense of presence with God. I really wanted to be open to the Spirit’s guidance as much as possible.

I saw the entire journey itself as something of a labyrinth, like an “uber-labyrinth” or “meta-labyrinth,” I suppose. And just as I usually walk into a labyrinth with a question in mind, I even had something of an uber-question for the whole trip. This came from a spiritual guidance session I’d had about a week before the trip. During that session, I spent a lot of time exploring a vision of the “Road to Emmaus” story found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel According to Luke. It’s the story of two disciples of Jesus (one of whom is named Cleopas, the other unnamed) who walk the seven-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’ Resurrection. They don’t yet know about the resurrection, and so they are downtrodden because of his death. While they walk, a stranger walks with them and talks with them, opening the scriptures to them. Finally, when they sit down to eat with the stranger, their eyes are opened and they see that it was the risen Jesus all along.

I am now seeing the Road to Emmaus story as a parable of life: I see life as a journey filled with ups and downs, and filled with grief. A journey, however, that God walks with us, and on which our hearts can “burn within us” when we recognize that presence. (See my blog entry from last week for more about my spiritual guidance session.) So I set out from home, driving southwest, with the question of, “How can I explore the Road to Emmaus story more deeply?” on my heart.

I walked more than twenty labyrinths over the course of the trip. I’m going to blog about one of them a day starting tomorrow.

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay

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