In these days of COVID-19, members of Perkins community have few opportunities to gather in person just for fellowship. One of the first took place on October 5, when students, faculty and staff were invited to walk the Ruben L.F. Habito Labyrinth together with its namesake, Ruben Habito, Professor of World Religions and Spirituality. The gathering was sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Community Engagement.

About a dozen people participated, wearing face masks and keeping a distance of six feet or more. The labyrinth is located outdoors between Selecman and Prothro Halls.

Habito opened the gathering with a brief message, inviting participants into a period of silence and prayer. During medieval times, he noted, labyrinths provided ameans of making a sacred pilgrimage if one could not undertake an actual journey to a holy place or to the Holy Land. Pilgrims engaged the body, the soul and the mind in the walk along the labyrinth’s path.

“The twists and turns of the labyrinth are analogous to a pilgrimage,” he said. “The center represents that place where we are in full communion with God and at our ultimate destiny.”

Participants then embarked at a slow, meditative pace toward the center of the labyrinth.

That center space, Habito said, symbolizes a place “where we can all be gathered together in God’s loving embrace. But the love of God is not just to be found in the center, at the culmination of the journey. It is there throughout the circuitous route of the entire circle, supporting you as you take each step.  You are embraced in that Divine Love with each step of your journey of life. From birth, you are already given that unconditional love, as a free gift of grace. Just as Jesus was told in Mark 1:11, when he was baptized in the Jordan – ‘You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased’ — you are addressed with that same affirmation at every moment of your life.”

At the conclusion of the walk, participants shared how they felt affirmed and empowered by the experience of walking the labyrinth.

The Labyrinth was given in honor of Habito by Dodee Frost Crockett and William B. Crockett, Jr., and was dedicated September 11, 2009. The path is about one-third of a mile long. Labyrinths are ancient human symbols that date back at least 4,000 years. The labyrinth symbol was incorporated into the floors of the great Gothic pilgrimage cathedrals of France in the 12th and 13th centuries. The most famous extant design is in the nave floor of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres outside of Paris, which is now more than 800 years old.