A Labyrinth on the Beach at R.S. Thomas’ Last Church

Sue of Aberdaron has been mentioned in several of my posts. Now I’m delighted to introduce her as Sue Fogarty, the writer of the following:

Labyrinth: Honoring the Prayers

Throughout the year, winter through to spring, summer and autumn, people come to St Hywyn’s church at the end of the Llŷn Peninsula . . . . where “the tide laps / at the bible,” “the breakers return / reaching a little further” along the wall below the church.

the_heart_of_prayerPeople come with their prayers, their requests for intercession, their hope for another state of being for themselves or others they love. Their prayers are crystalized in a name, some words, written on a pebble from that shore.

They walk and scan that shore for the ‘right’ pebble, the shape and color discerned amongst a myriad of others. Chosen, honored, placed with reverence on the cairn within the sacred walls, one on the other. A cairn of prayers, a collective mound of grief and pain and hope. A cairn, a way-marker on the path, to affirm to fellow travelers The Way, the shared route, ‘I have gone before you, follow me, as I follow the One who went before me.’

they_show_the_wayAnd now with reverence, we hold some of those stones in Communion with the Saints during the first Mass of November. We carry them out to the shore from whence they came, laying them within a Labyrinth marked out in the sand. Laid alongside each other, strangers, brought together in the serendipity of the love of others. They now create a new form. Now explicitly showing the path to the center of the Labyrinth, the axis, the focus, the locus of our prayers.

I bring myself and more prayer stones into the Labyrinth, mystified that I am at one moment following someone ahead of me, and the next moment at a turn in the path, we pass in opposite directions. Seemingly close to the Sacred centre, then drawn away, just as “the waves  run up the shore / and fall back,” so “I run up the approaches of God / and fall back.” As the path turns again, silent_prayer_on_the_shoreI arrive suddenly at the center, facing the sea, an expanse of stone strewn beach between the Labyrinth and the receding tide. In my return, back along the same path, walking “my ebb tide” which is not “despair,” my “prayer has its springs .… brimming.”

We leave the Labyrinth, a silent prayer on the shore. The day fades, darkness falls, the tide returns and in the quiet of the night, the stones are lifted by the sea’s enfolding embrace, restored to their own fathoms.

laying_the_stonesAs autumn’s glow recedes to winter’s stark beauty, so others will come to this shore on cold clear windswept days to lift a pebble from the sand, and lay the foundation stones of a new cairn of prayer in the church, honoring those they love, honoring the prayers, honoring those, unknown, who have yet to join them through the coming year, sharing in the fellowship of love and trust in God, perhaps with one prayer on their lips, “Lead me to still waters”.

Poems of R. S. Thomas quoted in this blog:

“the tide laps / at the Bible” – “The Moon in Llŷn,” Laboratories of the Spirit, 30.

All other quotes from “Tidal,” Mass for Hard Times, 43.

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