Walking on the lawn of a Canadian monastery, I stumbled on a labyrinth. At the entrance, there was an iron gate. While I was standing there, Sister Rose passed by.
“What is the meaning of this labyrinth?” I asked.
“Sometimes I come here. I took off my shoes and walk the labyrinth. It is like going on a pilgrimage,” she answered.
“Is a labyrinth a pilgrimage? I cannot understand.”
“I’ll tell you something about this symbol. These days, labyrinths spring up all over. There are even organizations that help build labyrinths. Sometimes, in our monastery workshops are held on this topic.”
I gaped at her. Then she went on.
“Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, a psychotherapist, was convinced that the power of imagination could help people in their spiritual growth. She went to France to seek out the labyrinth of Chartress Cathedral. When she returned to the Unites States, she reproduced the labyrinth of Chartress Cathedral at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. It attracted people as if it were a magnet. Walking the labyrinth was beneficial to both body and mind.”
I said to Sister Rose, “It’s interesting. There is another labyrinth maybe you don’t know.
“A Greek myth tells that Minos, the king of Crete, appointed the architect Daedalus to build a labyrinth to hold the Minotaur, a creature half man and half bull that fed on human flesh. Daedalus and his son, Icarus made a structure full of blind alleys, rooms, and narrow streets. The building was so intricate that even Daedalus and his son were trapped there.
“Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, decided to put an end to the sacrifice of young Athenians that were sent to Crete to feed the Minotaur. The hero landed in Crete. He was determined to kill the monster. But, how to get out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur? Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, fell in love with Theseus. She handed him a ball of wool. While Theseus went on holding one end of the tread in his hand, Ariadne stood at the entrance of the labyrinth and reeled off the thread. At last, Theseus killed the Minotaur. By following Ariadne’s thread he found his way out.
“The labyrinth symbolizes life itself. We humans are not different from the Minotaur. Like him we are dominated by instincts and ignorance. So as it happened to that monster, we are unable to get out of the labyrinth. According to the myth, we cannot succeed without Ariadne’s thread, which is a symbol. It means we need a guide capable of setting us free from instincts, ignorance and error, to see things as they are and not as they appear to our deluded minds”.
“What is your Ariadne’s thread?” I asked Sister Rose.
My Ariadne’s thread is my faith in God. Without it, I wouldn’t be different than the Minotaur. What about you?”
My Ariadne’s thread is my open heart. If my heart were locked, now I wouldn’t be here, in Canada, in front of this magic, mystic labyrinth.”
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind