There is a city in Spain that has found another way to celebrate the mystery of Our Lady’s Assumption.
There is a sacred underwater grotto off the coast of the port city of Algeciras, in the Bay of Gibraltar, where a statue of Mary as the Virgin of La Palma lies on the floor of the sea for 364 days of the year. One day of the year, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, the statue rises from the murky depths of the water and is placed on an altar on the city’s shore.
The 220 pound statue is raised by scuba divers with ropes and air bags, placed on a flotilla, and in a procession of boats the Virgin is brought to tens of thousands of people waiting on the shore. There are cheers and songs. Many from the throngs of people run from the beach and wade into the water to greet her.
After having been under the sea for so long, the statue is quite covered with barnacles, weeds, shells, and algae. One witness described her as looking no better than a weather-beaten garden gnome. Yet with great care the Virgin is scraped off and set upon a flower-covered altar where worshipers wait in line for hours to offer a quick prayer or to kiss the statue. An evening Mass is celebrated on the beach and the next morning the Virgin of La Palma is returned to her home under the sea.
It’s a great tradition that reenacts Mary’s assumption from this murky world of sin and sorrow to the realm of heavenly glory where the angels and saints rejoice to greet her.
How much we need traditions and how they enrich our lives. Traditions help to form our identity, strengthen the bonds between us, bridge gaps between generations, create memories, pass on our values and beliefs, keep us grounded and focused, and give us something to look forward to. They also keep us human in our fast-track and technologically driven culture.
Find a way to honor our Blessed Mother with others on Tuesday. You’ll see how it strengthens your heart and spirit.