Trinity Prayer Labyrinth
Southern Seminary's prayer labyrinth is a permanent outdoor replica of the circuitous path inlaid into the nave floor of 13th century Chartres Cathedral in France, and a work of art in its own right. (Chartres was dedicated on 24 October 1260.) While we know that other Gothic cathedrals had labyrinths, we cannot be sure of their original purpose. In recent years, this Christian artifact has been re-discovered and adapted to serve as a kinetic, meditative prayer-form. Its popularity has grown among old and young around the world. In May 2001, thirty members of the seminary community on pilgrimage to Taize stopped at Chartres to see the original. Then the construction of a Chartres-replica labyrinth on-campus became a project with many donors.
The walking of a labyrinth has been described as "a pilgrimage of the soul." The labyrinth is not a maze but one path leading into the center of a pattern, and then back out again. One way to think about labyrinth-prayer is based on a medieval church teaching about prayer: as a three-fold experience of purgation, illumination, and union with God. That is, the silent walking of the path to the central rosette is Purgation or a time for the shedding of distractions; reaching the center and resting there awhile is a time of Illumination as we are opened to receive the Holy Spirit's light and life; and, walking back out of the labyrinth is the stage of Union with God as we integrate what we have received and re-enter our active world for service in Christ's name.
Our labyrinth serves the seminary community, city, and region in several ways: as a beautiful visual reminder of the inherent connection between ministry and prayer; as a teaching tool for meditative prayer; and, as accessible sacred space for all who seek new ways to be attentive to God's ongoing prayer within them.
The seminary is deeply grateful to the individuals and groups who contributed to its Labyrinth Fund. In recognition of a major gift from the people of Trinity Lutheran Church, Columbia, SC, this sacred space is named the Trinity Labyrinth. All are invited to walk it with mind and heart opened to God.