|Mary and Jesus: East Window
|While walking and praying the labyrinth in Chartres, images of Mary have reminded me of God’s love. In the coming days and weeks I will be sharing a variety of these depictions of Jesus’ mother with you. Today I start with the image of Mary that is most visible from entrance of the labyrinth and when arriving at its center. Mary, as depicted in the Chartres Cathedral, is a support for Jesus–as his mother, his disciple, and even as in this image, as his throne.
|Gabriel and Mary: The Apsidal Window
|I am often surprised by what God communicates while I move on a labyrinth. While walking in God’s presence, it seems easy, even natural, to accept what I “hear.” This is one of the great gifts of praying while using a labyrinth, the turning path seems to support fluidity in me.
|Mary and Elizabeth: The Apsidal Window
|Walking with friends through life helps to ground me. Being able to share what God is doing in our lives is a source of deep peace and encouragement.
|Mary in the Tree of Jesse
|To feel connected to Mary is to feel connected to her family of physical and spiritual ancestors who sit and stand together in the Tree of Jesse window in the west, watching over the cathedral, reminding us all that we never walk alone.
|The Annunciation of Jesus's Birth
|Sometimes God is full of surprises. Mary helps me remember that I can always respond with total honesty.
|The Visitation of Mary & Elizabeth
|Friends speak volumes to one another without needing words. My understanding of others sometimes comes from our bodies reveal.
|The Nativity of Jesus
|Mary reminds me that as I reach towards those I love with a desire to bless them, I need to hold onto myself too. Healthy caring involves balance.
|Visit of the Magi
|Sharing life is richer when I ask those I’m with to tell me about what they are experiencing. Even though we are in the same place, our interpretations of what we are living is likely different.
|Return from Egypt
|Fleeing political oppression is almost as ancient as human history. What is new is how I choose to respond to it today.
|Flight to Egypt: Life of Christ Window
|Acting on wisdom that arrives from God takes courage, grit, and trust. Joseph inspires me to let the journey of life unfold, no matter where it seems to be heading.
|Mary Throne with Sun and Moon
|How often we walk without awareness. Above the labyrinth in Chartres is a twelfth-century image of Jesus blessing. Mary*, the sun (Jesus’ right at the level of Jesus’ heart), the moon (Jesus’ left), and two angels seem to offer support as they surround him. When I look up from the labyrinth I remember that God’s love often seems invisible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t present.
|Mary Witnessing Jesus's Death
|Suffering is interwoven with life. Even God suffers. By remaining present to the pain that others’ experience, God can use me to love.
|Mary Holds Her Dead Son's Hands
|When there are no words, touch still speaks. Even death isn’t powerful enough to kill all connection. As long as I am alive, I can reach for what I love or loved.
|The Silence of Mary
|When something is so horrible that it is inappropriate to speak, I can follow Mary’s example by keeping my hands and heart open.
|Mary Breastfeeding Jesus
|God was willing to depend on a woman, as all humans must do, to be nurtured unto life and nourished unto health. I am grateful to Mary, my older sister, whose example reminds me that maternal love is very precious.
|Mary of the Organ
|Changing where I look changes what I find. While walking labyrinth path in Chartres by watching the floor, I would never image that this sculpture of Mary holding Jesus is “watching over me” from above.
|The Bishop's Pulpit
|A piece of cloth that Mary may have worn at either the Annunciation or the birth of Jesus is kept with reverence in Chartres. Since this “veil” was kept safely in a locked box throughout the Middle Ages, people thought of it as a shirt. In Chartres there are over 100 depictions of Mary’s shirt, including one on the Bishop’s pulpit in the nave, right above the labyrinth. This wooden symbol of Mary’s care for Jesus, surrounded by roses and lilies, reminds me that as I walk through life God’s fragrant love is never far away.
|Flight to Egypt: John Window
|At the bottom of the St. John window is an image of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph fleeing the threat of death. John, persecuted for his Christian faith, was exiled to the Greek island of Patmos, less than sixty-six nautical miles from where today’s hundreds of thousands of refugees make their first stop on Kos. While walking the labyrinth, this scene of suffering calls me to move with the questions, “How I might be contributing to the suffering of others?” and “How may I participate in what God desires for those who are seeking safety in our very broken world?”
|We are all walking towards death. As I move on the labyrinth in Chartres, this tender image of Mary dying while surrounded by the grief-struck disciples reminds me that as natural as loss is, it hurts.
|Being with God involves complete vulnerability and acceptance. As I walk the Chartres labyrinth I look at Jesus holding Mary’s soul and I am reminded that God respects me (Jesus holds Mary in his cloak–in the middle ages one did not touch things considered holy with bare hands) and blesses me (Jesus’ right hand) just as I am (Mary is small and naked).
|Jesus's Disciples Carry Mary's Casket
|Carrying our loss is hard. The sharing of grief makes it bearable.
|The Death of Mary
|Recalling our intimate connection with the earth and our own mortality is grounding. I orient my life by keeping death in view on the horizon.
|The Assumption of Mary
|Transitions involve stretching, openness, and change. The practice of praying using a labyrinth has taught me a great deal about each. This image of Mary’s assumption into Heaven (a doctrine which as a Protestant seems very foreign) comforts me–the angels are there to help!
|Jesus Crowning Mary
|“Thee, O God, we praise,” is written in Latin on each side of this image. Christ is placing a crown on Mary’s head. At first glance, this image is hard for me as a Protestant to understand. I look more carefully and notice how Mary is directing attention to her son, the Risen Christ. Above them I see the Holy Spirit (symbolized by a dove) extending red symbols of God’s blessing to both. This image of Mary being crowned by the King of Kings, who wears no crown, expresses His appreciation and respect. I too appreciate and respect Mary for her “Yes,” to God, daily fulfilling the challenge of mothering Jesus, and devotion to her son during his ministry, death, and after his resurrection.
|The Coronation of Mary
“Thy will be done,” is a prayer for all seasons. While walking the labyrinth I often reflect on the highs and lows of my life. Like Mary in this image, I ask God for the grace and courage to accept whatever comes.
|Mary at Jesus's Crucifixion
|Many people can walk one labyrinth at the same time, although each lives and integrates the experience differently. This image of Mary mourning below the cross of Jesus reminds me that even in times of deep isolation, the presence of others is a balm.
|Mary & The Resurrection of the Dead
|As I walk the labyrinth and look at this image of Mary honoring Christ, Ruler Over All, I am grateful to have an older sister whose example of directing others to God inspires me. May I follow more closely in her footsteps.
|Mary Throne with Jesus on Her Lap
|Images of Mary’s strong gaze, extending over Jesus who sits on her lap while blessing, surround those walking on the labyrinth. Mary and her son are visible whether one looks east, west, north or south where this image is found. The two incensing angels remind me that Love is holy and honorable.
|Mary & Theophilus: Miracles of Mary Window
|While walking the labyrinth, I can see the images that relate to a thirteenth century miracle play. In it, a priest named Theophilus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for becoming a bishop. Later, realizing how big a mistake he has made, he asks for Mary’s help.
|Miracles of Mary Window
|This modern (1927) image of Mary and Jesus, based on the statue of Mary in the crypt (Notre Dame Sous Terre), asks the viewer to consider the value of looking to the past (Mary with her eyes closed) and to the future (Jesus with his eyes open, looking straight ahead). As I walk the labyrinth it also reminds me to gaze within while also seeing what is right in front of me.
|North Clerestory Rose
|There are so many ways to pray. Whether on my knees or walking the labyrinth, the important thing is the connection I make with God.
|North Clerestory Rose
|We walk the labyrinth under this image of holy gestation. As I look up to it, I ask God to infuse all that I create with the Holy Spirit (the six doves who are sending red light that encircles Jesus in the womb) so that it will be a great blessing to others (just as Christ is blessing with his right hand).
|Bridan Sculpture in the Choir
|Mary’s open arms, reaching out to God, inspire me to pray for the ability to abandon myself with trust.