Today I pulled out my Celtic-themed labyrinth and walked its path, reciting the prayer above. I will do this every day throughout this second week of Celtic Advent. This is also the last official week of the church year and for me, and for many others, the culmination of our season of gratitude which ends with American Thanksgiving on Thursday.
I love that when I celebrate Celtic Advent, the beginning and the ending of the year intertwine like this. In this week we are reminded that each year begins and ends with giving thanks, a circle of delight in God’s world in which the beginning and ending are woven together. It reminds me of how I begin a new ball of wool when I am knitting. I don’t tie a knot; I tease out the threads of the new and old balls and weave them together. The end of the old supports the beginning of the new. This is more profoundly expressed in life where the old falls into the ground and nourishes the new. The new needs the nourishment of the old to flourish. All that was good, all that was challenging, all the hope and the despair of the past are not discarded, they are woven into the new.
I love too that the liturgical year begins before the secular year does. It reminds me that the practice of my faith, the solid bedrock of Christ’s presence in my life, provides the foundation on which all of my life rests.
This has been particularly meaningful for me as I set up my Celtic garden and the centerpiece on our table this year. Everything is recycled, drawn from the treasure trove of special items gifted to me over the years. Yet already there is a beautiful newness emerging as I use these to write new prayers and create new and meaningful practices. The old and the new are interwoven. Without the old foundations there would be no dreaming, no imagination and no new creativity.
Walking the labyrinth, even a finger labyrinth, is a great way to stir our imaginations and our creativity. I extoll the virtues of labyrinths in my last book The Gift of Wonder
Labyrinths are used not only for prayer and healing, but also to get ready for meetings, to break through writer’s block, and to cure insomnia. Labyrinths provide a legitimate pathway for questioning and problem solving. Finger labyrinths can be found in third and fourth century churches. Their circuits are well worn by the passage of innumerable fingers “walking on pilgrimage” to the center and out again.
It seems weird, but research suggests that when we trace a finger labyrinth with our non dominant hand, it accesses our intuition and helps stir our creativity. (The Gift of Wonder 88)
I encourage you to draw from the joys and despairs, from the grief and gratitude of your past to create new symbols of hope for the future. Perhaps, like me, you need to create an unusual Advent centrepiece this year that helps you enter into the wonder of the season in fresh ways. Or you might like to use a finger labyrinth to help stir your creativity. If you don’t own one, create one using this fun exercise adapted from The Gift of Wonder, or download one. Or, find a labyrinth near you and set aside time to walk it each day. There are lots of possibilities.
At the least, walk the path of a finger labyrinth and recite a prayer like the one above or a psalm like Alex Tang suggests. For this week I did a bible search of all the scriptures that mentioned walking. I decided not to use a psalm but chose this beautiful scripture from Isaiah 2:3-5
Many peoples will come and say,
“Everyone, come! Let’s go up higher to Yahweh’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God; then he can teach us his ways
and we can walk in his paths!”
Zion will be the center of instruction,
and the word of Yahweh will go out from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge fairly between the nations
and settle disputes among many peoples.
They will beat the swords they used against each other
into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
No nation will take up weapons against another,
nor will they prepare for war anymore.
5 O house of Jacob, come let us walk
in the wonderful light of Yahweh!
The words let us walk in the wonderful light of Yahweh really impacted me. Combined with my prayer and my labyrinth walking they provided a rich foundation for my meditations this week.
I hope that this kind of practice will guide and inspire you this week too and help you intertwine the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of the next.
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