Sunday I awoke feeling as if the day before had all been a dream. Celice and I had a LUXURIOUS breakfast complete with freshly baked croissant, creamy yogurt, fresh juice, and house-made cappuccino topped with whipped cream. The proprietor of our family-run hotel was more than willing to make our stay memorable. He even offered to drive us into town, saying for him it is only a “promenade.”
Having experienced the grand procession the previous day, I walked into town feeling light and free of expectation. As it turned out, Sainte Sarah granted us the privilege to re-witness the procession from beginning to end.
We came face to face with the Head Priest who lead the procession, blessing the pilgrims along his processional route. Followed by the men riding atop beautiful white horses. They parted the crowds allowing the statue of the Two Marys to pass through (Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome). I thought this curious that the third Mary, Our Lady Mary Magdalene, was not represented along with the other two.
Quickly, we ran ahead, cutting through town in an attempt to beat the head of the procession to the sea. In moments we made it to the shore to witness the entire processional ceremony unfolding before our eyes.
The Priests, along their route, chanted over blow horns, “Long Live Les Sainte Maries!” and “Long Live Sainte Sarah!” The crowd soulfully repeated the chant.
Suddenly a waive of otherworldly spirit took over the crowd as time and space expanded to take us pilgrims back to the moment the Three Marys landed upon the shores of French Gaul, greeted by our Celebrated Saint, Sarah.
Entranced, I watched as the pilgrims steadily processed the Two Marys and then Sainte Sarah into the sea.
Moments later the procession turned face, and began its march back to whence it came. I turned to see that Celice and I, just as the day before, were surrounded on all sides by the men riding white horses. A clear sign to me that the Spirit of Sainte Sarah was taking special care of us.
The next moments passed like a blur in my psyche. My body filled with the chanting of Sarah’s name as she steadily approached me, flanked on all sides by Pilgrims willingly carrying her load. My heart ached to embrace her. I rushed toward her, reaching my hand out when one of the young women carrying Sarah grabbed my hand and placed it upon Sainte Sarah’s dress. Tears of gratitude flooded my eyes, and I gently backed away, hardly able to keep myself standing from the immensity of feeling coursing through my body.
Time stood still as I watched the procession disappear into the streets of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. In a moment of clarity, I took my tiny glass bottle and dug it into the sand, collecting a bit of the earth that held the Spirit of these women.
I turned to Celice, tears in my eyes, trying to catch my breath. She pulled my hand as we rushed back to the church, attempting get inside before the masses.
Once there, I took myself down to the crypt. I wanted to see Sainte Sarah once more. I quickly made my way to the front of the line and looked her in the eye. She she spoke to my heart words of love for having completed another piece of my souls’s journey to the Heart of Mary Magdalene.
Before leaving the church, my eyes were drawn to a long line of rose bouquets descending from the ceiling of the church. They seemed to point to a large wooden box, delicately painted with the story of the Marys, placed high upon the altar. Following the motions of the others, I gently placed my hand upon the box, thanking the women one last time for their great love and courage.
I later learned the box is said to contain the remains of Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome. This lead me to deduce that the reason Mary Magdalene was not “physically” included in the procession is because her journey did not end at Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. Rather, it is believed she carried on beyond Les Maries, lifted On High by the Angels, taken to the cave of La Sainte Baume where she continued to pray and work in the name of Love.
Celice and I made our way to the Arles train station, the place in which we had first met and connected three days prior. We hugged goodbye, knowing our time together had been a reconnection rather than an introduction. She left then for her final pilgrim site of Rennes-le-Chateau, while I remained in Arles; the city that quickly stole my heart.