For a while now we had heard about an event called The Wedding of the Sea which takes place in Atlantic City, NJ, on the Feast of the Assumption. We didn’t really know what to make of it but we knew we wanted to check it out. A visit to the Jersey Shore is always refreshing this time of year, so what could be a better way to spend August 15 than to gather on the beach with the faithful for this annual event?
The Wedding of the Sea traces its roots back to 1000 AD when the City of Venice, Italy sailed out into the Adriatic to ceremonially wed the sea as a symbol of its recent naval victories. They tossed a wedding ring into the waters on the Feast of the Ascension. This tradition eventually was brought to St. Michael’s parish in Atlantic City. The date was changed to the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and a floral wreath was tossed by the bishop into the sea, instead of a wedding ring.
We arrived just in time for the procession. The beach was crowded and everyone was waiting for the bishop to arrive. We stood on the beach with our daughter Danielle. She has autism, and she looked a little confused because she was not wearing a bathing suit and no one was swimming. When the bishop arrived with the other priests and made his way through the crowd, Danielle seemed happy enough to watch them as they processed across the sand in full clerical garb. When they arrived at the life guard’s boat, you know the one with the words Atlantic City painted across the hull, … the boat where everybody poses with their families and friends … maybe it’s just a Jersey thing! Anyway, when the bishop arrived, he stepped into the boat and several strong life guards rowed him out onto the surf. The waves were rough and the boat slapped the water’s surface. The bishop took this in stride and when they were a good distance from shore he threw the floral wreath into the sea to cheers from all of us on the beach. Danielle was clapping with the rest of us.
After this, we returned to the Boardwalk for a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a solemn experience to stand there with heads bowed before the Host in adoration. We saw that Danielle was standing with her hands pressed together in prayer. It was a very devout moment and a very fitting way to conclude the Wedding of the Sea.
Copyright 2019 David and Mercedes Rizzo