Day Three

Kneeler 23

Psalm 51

15 O Lord, open my lips:
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
16 You take no pleasure in sacrifice, or I would give it:
burnt-offerings you do not want.

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit:
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

In the novel Sarum by Edward Rutherford there is a passage about a humble knight who had hoped to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The surprise is the description of a labyrinth. (still to be seen at Salisbury today.)
It is the end of the chapter called "The Castle" on pages 557 and 558:

"In February 1140, while the kingdom of England enjoyed a brief period of peace, and while the ewes were lambing in the darkened sheep-houses on the slopes below, Nicholas, called Masoun, directed a small team of men in a curious labour.

On the surface of the ancient disk barrow in its circle of yew trees, they cut a strange design: dividing the circle into four segments they laid out a winding path that led from its outer edge, through each segment in turn, until at last, exactly as on the parchment's design, it arrived at the centre. It was an infuriating path. First it seemed to be straight to the centre, then it would turn away, advancing and retreating, looping back on itself again and again, and finally flinging back to the outer edge before curving round, entering the next segment, and repeating the process again. Only on the last of the four journeys, when it seemed the path was about to fly off to the outer edge once more, did it suddenly and unexpectedly lead straight to the centre. It was, Godefroi shrewdly realised, a perfect allegory for the spiritual life: a subtle and perfect substitute for a pilgrimage.

"The man who designed this was a wise fellow," he remarked to Nicholas, but though the craftsman nodded, he was only aware of its geometric symmetry.

The making of the miz-maze was simple. The path was two feet wide, and was marked out by cutting a furrow into the packed chalk soil on each side so that the effect was of a green grass pattern laid over a white chalk base. Its measurments had an almost mystic symmetry which delighted the knight: it was thirty six paces in diameter; and the journey through the maze was 660 paces from the entrance to the opening of the inner circle and 666 paces to the exact centre.
The men worked carefully and steadily.

Three days before the end of the month, the work was completed.

In the years that followed, the miz-maze of Godefroi, lord of Avonsford was greatly admired. But it was the cool, determined piety of the knight which was admired still more, and made him, throughout Sarum, an object of awe.

For it soon became known that he had set himself a secret regime; secret because he practised it at dawn, and never spoke of it. For the rest of the day he managed his estate, performed his duties at the castle or in attending on his overlord as required; but during all the years the Anarchy raged and his family remained in London, he used to go silently up to the miz maze at dawn each day, winter and summer, regardless of the weather, and alone on his knees he would make his way slowly round it to the centre. It used to take him an hour.

Why did he do it? It was not fanaticism certainly; he was a level-headed man. It was rather, a grim, self-disciplined disgust with the world that led to his penance which, though it never gave him peace of mind, brought him a certain satisfaction.

By this means, it was calculated, he travelled over a hundred miles a year and, there could be no doubt, earned himself remission from many years of hell fire.

And who should not try to save his soul at such a time?

For at the castle of Sarisberie that stared so grimly over the five rivers below and the sweeping chalk ridges above, there could be no doubt that the times were very evil.

On March 1, 1140, three days after Godefroi's miz-maze was completed, there was a total eclipse of the sun. It surprised no one that, soon afterwards, the Anarchy broke out again."

This is a fictional account of the making of the turf labyrinth near Salisbury in England.