Passover, Easter and Ramadan, the most holy month for Muslims, overlap this year. People of faith in Greater Bangor are excited to be able to gather together in large groups for the first time in two years.
The recently completed new kitchen at Beth Israel was busy Friday morning as congregants prepared matzah ball soup, turkey, salad and special foods that help retell the story of the Jews flight out of Egypt.
Bangor’s Conservative congregation marked the first day of the eight-day Passover observance with a community seder Friday in its large function room. It’s the first time since the pandemic curtailed in-person worship and religious celebrations, and since $200,000 in renovations were completed, that the synagogue had held a large, community gathering.
Clockwise, from left: Nori Kazdoy makes matzah balls for the community seder on Friday; Billy Miller cuts vegetables for salad at Beth Israel on Friday in preparation for the community seder; Seder plate at Beth Israel for Friday’s community seder, which marks the beginning of Passover. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
Before the kitchen was added, congregants had to prepare food in the synagogue’s basement kitchen, then carry it upstairs through the entryway and into the function room.
Passover commemorates Jews’ time as slaves and the freedom that followed. The seder includes eating matzah or unleavened bread because the Jews left Egypt in such haste there was no time to allow the bread to rise; bitter foods, such as horseradish, to remind them of the bitter years in slavery; and charoset, a sweet mixture of fruit and red wine, to remind them of the sweet taste of freedom.
The seder always ends with the words, “Next year in Israel.”
A block down York Street at St. John Catholic Church, a dozen eighth graders at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor presented a living Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. English and religion teacher Melanie Perkins said the students were excited to take part in the story of Christ’s death told through his mother Mary’s eyes.
“It gives the students an opportunity to not only have read about Jesus’ passion and death, but to have a visual representation of what Jesus endured,” Perkins said. “This version of the Stations of the Cross is particularly moving as it is from a mother’s perspective, Mary’s. We are reminded of how we too should be a faithful disciple of Jesus as His mother was, and it is also the crux of our Catholic faith to know that Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection was God’s plan of salvation for us.”
Monsignor Andrew Dubois said after the presentation that one of the effects of the pandemic has been that people have a deeper understanding of what it means to come together as a community because they were unable to for so long.
Clockwise, from left: Jesus, played by Jack Lagasse, 14, carries his cross during the Living Stations of the Cross presentation at St. John’s Church on York Street Friday; Mary, played by Elise Ouellette, 13, is comforted by Mary Magdalene, played by Megan Whitehouse, as they follow Jesus; Mary looks up to Jesus after he died on the cross during the Living Stations of the Cross presentation; Mary cradles the body of Jesus after he was brought down from the cross during the Living Stations of the Cross presentation. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
“People want to come together as the body of Christ again especially during Lent,” he said.
Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, with Orthodox Easter observed on April 24.
From left: Fifteen eighth grade students from All Saints Catholic School participated in The Living Stations of the Cross; Jesus, played by Jack Lagasse, 14, falls a third time during the Living Stations of the Cross presentation at St. John’s Church on York Street Friday; Mary Magdalene and Mary look up at Jesus on the cross. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
Followers of Islam are gathering at the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono on Saturday evenings for potluck suppers to break their fasts during Ramadan.
During Ramadan, all healthy adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. The month is to be devoted to reflection and spiritual discipline, as well as the reading of the Quran, which was revealed to the prophet Muhammad by Allah during the final days of Ramadan.
It is customary to break fast with friends and extended family, according to Mosque member Marwa Elkelani of Bangor.
“This has proved especially significant and meaningful after the pandemic robbed us of these traditions,” she said. “This year, with the lifting of [pandemic] restrictions and the acceptance that the virus is now endemic, the jubilation and gratitude are real.
“This Ramadan feels transformative, with a great sense of renewal of our lives and community,” she said.
Ramadan will end May 1 or 2.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Melanie Perkins’ first name.