Palm Sunday: The Labyrinth Journey

Readings for Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

This is the story of two trees…

The man from Nazareth entered the town not on a horse of conquest, but the beast of the poor. Yet the people came running to see him as he rode by the palm trees that shaded the courtyards of the rich and sheltered the beggars. Some climbed trees and cut the palm boughs and tossed them to the ground. The crowd that had seen his miracles, heard his teaching and preaching grabbed them as quickly as they fell, shouting, Hosanna! God saves us! They welcomed the king they thought he was. It would soon become apparent that he was not the king they wanted. Their shouts of Hosanna quickly turned to “Crucify him. Crucify him.”

In this land where water is scarce and only the fruit trees of the desert grow, the landscape outside of the city is scarred by trees stripped of all their branches, except for one, where Jesus is lashed to the trunk in a way that no true branches grow. On the dead wood of this barren tree a man freed from slavery to self, freed from slavery to the power of the world is nailed to this tree to die. His blood is on our heads. In the shadow of this tree we too are condemned and by this blood God saves us.

This is the story of two trees. The distance between them is the journey of a week and a journey of a lifetime. The distance between them is the whole history of the people of God. The distance between them is God’s deep dissatisfaction with the way the world is.

This is the story of two trees. One lent its branches so that we could shout Hosanna! God save us. The other offered a single naked branch to show us in a single gift of life, the fruit of love, in which we are to know how God is with us.

~Reverend Mary Sulerud

Fitting for this day where we begin Holy Week on the journey into Jerusalem with Jesus, I thought it would be worth reflecting on a prayful journey we can make close to home:  the labyrinth journey.  I spend some time each season at Richmond Hill.  The labyrinth there bears this notation of, “The Jerusalem Mile” and I am quoting from Richmond Hill’s materials on the origin of that name:

“The Jerusalem Mile was the name given to some labyrinths used for mediation and built in the Middle Ages.  The concept was the pilgrims who could not make the journey to Jerusalem during their lifetime could pray and reach Jerusalem in the spirit by walking this labyrinthine path.”

“Richmond Hill’s installation of a copy of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, itself a center for pilgrimages, is called the Jerusalem Mile in honor of this tradition.  This example of the widest accepted prayer labyrinth in the Church has eleven circuits, which are spread through four quadrants, and is symbolic of Christ’s cross.  Grace is symbolized by the never-ending path to the center and back, allowing the pilgrim to walk the path at his or her own pace and to stop for prayer and meditation as needed.”

If you haven’t been to Richmond Hill…or other places nearby you…to walk a labyrinth for prayer, this week of journeying is a good time to do so.  Making a symbolic journey is a way for us to reflect on our spiritual journey. To make it easier, here are directions to a labyrinth very close to us at St. Thomas, on the grounds of Union Presbyterian Seminary (this labyrinth is open daily from dawn until dusk):

Or, you can visit the “Jerusalem Mile” at Richmond Hill (email them to check on public hours):

For those who are participating virtually with us, use the following “Labyrinth Locator” to find a walk near you:

Finally, for some helpful resources to guide your labyrinth walk, here are some instructions from the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA.  I hold fondly in my heart and memory the times I have walked each of these labyrinths as a part of my spiritual journey.

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