Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | April 8, 2022

Congregation Update: The Labyrinth and our Paschal Pilgrimage

Blog|The Rev. Jude Harmon

“I am the way and the truth and the life”
— John 14:6 

In this Sunday’s sermon, I highlighted a fundamental task of biblical interpretation, a task all of us share as “stewards of the divine mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1) to resist simple caricatures and go deeper. Deeper into the plot. Deeper into the characters. Deeper into the story. Second-century Alexandrian theologian, Origen, famously admonished that the Scriptures don’t lend themselves to a casual, easy-to-understand reading, but are deliberately layered, inviting us to search them for a “meaning worthy of God.” The Vine featured a practical sequel to Sunday’s sermon where groups were assigned a character from the Anointing at Bethany Gospel, and invited to imagine the story from that character’s perspective. The results were brilliant! Each group brought out such thoughtful insights, disrupting the standard cast narratives.  

We go deeper into the story because it is our story, too. John’s Gospel is almost unique in this regard: liberally appropriating and adapting prior elements from Matthew, Mark and Luke to tell his own story, one that is concerned with delivering a “true testimony,” not in terms of historicity but in terms of profound theological truth. John isn’t just telling us something, he’s also modeling what theological reflection looks like. This approach acknowledges the connection between personal experience and Biblical witness: the stories of old are united to our stories by the One Way whose own life story of death and resurrection is the path we all trod toward God.  

This Friday at 6 pm, our cathedral will host a labyrinth walk as we do most second Fridays of the year. Medieval labyrinths, like the one ours is modeled after from Chartres, started popping up in cathedrals throughout Europe around the 13th century shortly after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 1187 rendered paschal pilgrimage there impossible. The Chartres labyrinth is more than a pretty design on the floor; it is a microcosm of the paschal pilgrimage itself. Inspired by a special tool found in the margins of manuscripts to assist clergy in the computus of Easter — a date that changes each year based on lunar cycles — the Chartres labyrinth’s many design features combine to create an elaborate mathematical and astronomical computer! Like Egypt’s pyramids, it became a kind of “resurrection machine.” The one path unfolds in three phases that are associated with descent (the journey in), death ( the center ) and resurrection (the journey out). At the center of the Chartres labyrinth you’ll find images of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur: types for Christ, Mary and Satan respectively. The image of Theseus using Ariadne’s thread (the loom of Christ’s flesh woven on Mary’s body in the Incarnation) to find his way out of the subterranean labyrinth after defeating the Minotaur became a rich metaphor for our spiritual journeys in God.

Today, our beloved Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, Honorary Canon, can be credited with resurrecting labyrinth spirituality in our time, opening the path to everyone who wishes to walk it by fusing this ancient paschal pattern with contemporary approaches to psychospiritual practices of integration. If you come on a Friday, you can learn her method for walking based on releasing (the way in), receiving (the center) and returning (the way out). I love this approach because it honors the pre-Christian roots of this archetypal symbol, paving a way for people from every walk of life to journey together. What a profound ministry it is to our city, and a “true testimony” to our expansive vision of God’s grace at work in our world in and beyond the Church!  The Rev. Can. Mark Stanger also reminds us that this year marks the 100th year of the Good Friday Offering in which Episcopalians join other Christians to share their love, compassion, and financial gifts for the work and witness of our church in the five nations served by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Be a peacemaker through the church’s ministries of health care, education and parish life in the homeland of Jesus and beyond by going to our giving page and selecting “Good Friday Offering” from the drop-down bar or texting “GRACE” to 76278 on Friday, April 15. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!” (Psalm 122)

Speaking of anniversaries and the Holy Land, it was 20 years ago the first group of Grace Cathedral pilgrims visited Jerusalem. Getting ready now to go again in September! Mark Stanger is available to describe the pilgrimage and answer questions this Palm Sunday, April 10, in Wilsey Conference Center (lower level of the cathedral church), right after the Palm Sunday liturgy. 

Love and blessings, 

The Rev. Jude Aaron Harmon 
Canon for Innovative Ministries & Founding Pastor of The Vine 

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