Walking the Labyrinth

labyrinth - image via Picturing GodRecently, I walked a labyrinth. There are many ways to walk a labyrinth. One can walk it in silent meditation, attentive to each step and breath. One can walk a labyrinth while praying a specific prayer or recalling one’s life journey. This time, as I entered the path, I felt called to pray God’s names on the way into the center, one name for each step. There are many Biblical names for God. For example, Psalm 62 names God as “rock” and “fortress.” The Gospel according to Luke describes God as a “mother hen” who is sheltering her chicks beneath her wings (13:34). As I took each step, I allowed another name for God to rise up to the surface: Redeemer, Savior, Lover, My Rock, Faithful Friend, Shield, Teacher, Spouse, Light in Darkness, Divine Gardener. Sometimes I’d repeat a name I’d already prayed, and sometimes I’d discover a new one, e.g., Heart of my Heart. Praying as I walked, I was reminded of how many ways God had been present to me in the course of my life.

Standing in the center of the labyrinth, I laid down a heart-shaped stone among the many other objects that people had left there—pinecones, pieces of broken glass, a small crucifix—and knew deeply the interconnection between God and self and other, the sense that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

On the way back out, Jesus asked me to name myself. By what names did God name me? Again, I tried not to think too much, but rather to allow names to rise up with each slow step: mother, teacher, wife, friend, blossoming flower, God’s “little one.” Sometimes I’d say one name and its opposite the next step—for example, patient, impatient, free, unfree—naming my real complexities as a person who is still growing and learning. I was also surprised and delighted to notice that some of the names overlapped with the names I had earlier given to Jesus: teacher, friend. Others named my human limits: one who falls down.

At the end of the labyrinth, I knew what name God wanted me to name as a name that surrounds all of these other names: Beloved.

Walking the labyrinth in this way was an integrative and consoling experience for me. But there are many walks to be taken and many ways to take them. If you want to try walking a labyrinth, locate labyrinths worldwide with http://labyrinthlocator.com.

Image courtesy of Picturing God: Faces and Traces of the Divine.

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Marina Berzins McCoy
Marina Berzins McCoy is a professor at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service-learning program. She is the author of The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness and Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy. She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.


  1. Marina, what a beautiful passage! I felt myself walking the labyrinth alongside you. Until I read your post I never thought to be so unscripted-perhaps that is why I have had such”dry” experiences whenever I pray the labyrinth.
    There are so many names for God! Another idea might be to open myself to gratitude-what blessings am I particularly grateful to God ? I could also pray for repentance as I make my way to the center and then rejoice as I move out.
    Thank you so much for helping me see another way to make the labyrinth a deeper and more meaningful prayer!

      • Hello Marina,
        I’ve never prayed in labyrinth. But walking in many places, or sitting in my garden, prayer is easier. When I look in my mirror each morning, I see a beloved daughter of The Father. Other days I see the Prodigal Daughter. Abba loves both of me
        Maggie M


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