Narthex, part B:

Floor pattern, Chartres Cathedral, France -- A labyrinth pattern


In some very old cathedrals is a floor pattern near the entrance (in the narthex in our case) called the labyrinth. It is to the original Christian meaning we must cling, for in our wicked day the false teachers of New Ageism (every man his own god) have appropriated it for devilish ends.

The Christian labyrinth represented a maze, and pilgrims would walk that floor maze while perhaps meditating upon the reasons and meanings of their own lives. The puzzlements, the suffering of the good, the dead ends of it all ... surely they are in the steps of the labyrinth. Yet if there is any one lesson that we must learn from our own labyrinth (and since we are alive and still in this world we all walk them every day) is that nothing is meaningless since for now we "see through a glass darkly", for now we only know "in part", for now we are constantly tempted to suppose God doesn't really care, for now we at times seem to walk in circles. We must not permit ourselves to be "done in" by this life's perpelexing "for nows" : the promise is that we shall see clearly for we shall see things as they truly are, we will see Christ Face to face. (I Corinthians 13: 8-13)

Faith was never easy but love is with us; His love is in the Cathedral of our souls. Within whatever maze that besets our pilgrim's feet there is this one thing that love demands of us, this one thing that gives birth to the faith that will make us more than conquerors in Christ: look up, your redemption draweth nigh ... dare to be as large as the Cathedral soul Christ has made you by His life, death, and resurrection. (Luke 21:8)
Until the day when all that is mysterious will be revealed let us take comfort from these words of the blessed John Henry Newman: John Henry Newman (picture) (John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, London: Longmans, Green, 1891, PPS 4:206-8)

Men move about in the common paths of life and look the same; but there is little community of feeling between them; each knows little about what goes on in any other sphere than his own; and a stranger coming into any neighborhood would, according to his own pursuits and acquaintances, go away with an utterly distinct or reverse impression of it, viewed as a whole. Or again, leave for a while the political and commercial excitement of some large city and take refuge in a secluded village; and there, in the absence of news of the day, consider the modes of life and habits of mind, the employments and views of its inhabitants; and say whether the world, when regarded in its separate portions, s not more unlike itself than it is unlike the world of angels which Scripture places in the midst of it?

The world of spirits then, though unseen, is present; present, not future, not distant. It is not above the sky, it is not beyond the grave; it is now and here; the kingdom of God is among us. Of this the text speaks -- "We look", says St. Paul, "not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." You see he regarded it as practical truth, which was to influence conduct. Not only does he speak of the world invisible but of the duty of "looking at" it; not only does he contrast the things of time with it but says that their belonging to time is a reason, not for looking at, but for looking off them. Eternity was not distant because it reached to the future, nor the unseen state without its influence on us because it was impalpable. In like manner, he says in another Epistle, "Our conversation is in heaven." And again, "God hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." And again, "Your life is hid in with Christ in God. " And to some purport are St. Peter's words, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom though now you see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." And again, in words already quoted, he speaks of the angels as "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." (Phil 3:20; Eph 2:6; Col 3:3; I Pet 1:8; I Cor 4:9; Heb 1:14)

Such is the hidden kingdom of God; and, as it is now hidden, so in due season it shall be revealed. Men think that they are lords of the world and may do as they will. They think this earth their property and its movements in their power; whereas it has other lords besides them and is the scene of a higher conflict than they are capable of conceiving. It contains Christ's little ones whom they despise and his angels whom they disbelieve; and these at length shall take possession of it and be manifested. At present, "all things,'[to appearances , "continue as they were from the beginning of the creation"; and scoffers ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?", but at the appointed time there will be a "manifestation of the sons of God", and the hidden saints "shall shine out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father". When the angels appeared to the shepherds it was a sudden appearance -- "Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host." How wonderful a sight! The night had before that seemed just like any other night; as the evening in which Jacob saw the vision seemed like any other evening. They were keeping watch over their sheep; they were watching the night as it passed. The stars moved on -- it was midnight. They had no idea of such a thing when the angel appeared. Such are the power and virtue hidden in things which are not seen, and at God's will they are manifested. There were manifested for a moment to Jacob, for a moment to Elisha's servant, for a moment to the shepherds. They will be manifested forever when Christ comes at the Last Day "in the glory of His Father with the holy angels]' Then this world will fade away and the other world will shine forth.

Let these be your thoughts, my brethren, especially in the spring season, when the whole face of nature is so rich and beautiful. Once only in the year, yet once, does the world which we see show forth its hidden powers and in a manner manifest itself. Then the leaves come out, and the blossoms of the fruit trees and flowers; and the grass and corn spring up. There is a sudden rush and burst outwardly of the hidden life which God has lodged in the material world. Well, that shows you, as by sample, what it can do at God's command when He gives the word. This earth, which now buds forth in leaves and blossoms, will one day burst forth into a new world of light and glory in which we shall see saints and an angels dwelling. Who would think, except from his experience of former springs all through his life, who would conceive two or three months before, that it was possible that the face of nature, which then seemed so lifeless, should become so splendid and varied?


Sing then with the Psalmist, though the day be long and the secret storms of life threaten to undo you:

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou carest for him?

Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
Thou dost crown him with glory and honor.

(Psalm 8: 3-5)

Indeed, my Lord, who am I but one You have chosen to have mercy upon: a son, a daughter of humanity with eternity placed in my soul by Christ? Oh set me right upon life's entangled roads and let me stand upon the Rock of Ages to see what a universe You have placed inside my heart, for I am a Christian by Your mercy alone. Amen


With Edna St. Vincent Millay I can proclaim from one of my favorite poems these words amidst life's perplexities:

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat -- the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

		 (from Renascence)

Within this day's labyrinthine maze we may ask: "Why me, Lord? Why me?" Our hearts at times must be broken that they might be enlarged and able to embrace the beauty and goodness that God the Holy Spirit brings to them ... we must be enlarged to "make room" for the eternity within us.

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