BREWER, Maine — Thinking about how Jesus of Nazareth must have felt nailed to the cross, alone and basically naked, as people — some who loved him and others who wished for his death — watched him die is what Hampden resident Jake Maltz kept in his heart as he played the role of God’s begotten son.
“It’s helped me grow spiritually to walk in his shoes, to feel how he felt,” the 17-year-old Hampden resident and senior at Hampden Academy said about playing the role of Jesus during the third annual Way of the Cross Palm Sunday Community Procession.
The Way of the Cross is a re-enactment of Christ’s condemnation, crucifixion and death. The procession consists of prayers, readings and enactments based on the 14 traditional Stations of the Cross.
The live re-enactment is held on Palm Sunday and is a production done by about 80 members of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, which is made up of the Catholic churches in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden and Winterport.
Thurifer Jacob Gould led the procession, swinging the thurible with its smoking incense that filled the misty and sometimes snow-filled air with ancient perfume. Torchbearers dressed in white followed him with Roman legionnaires, armed with swords, escorting Jesus in the middle of the procession that also included his mother, the Virgin Mary; more torchbearers; and Holy Land townspeople. The townspeople sometimes sang songs of prayer while walking along the 1.6-mile route from St. Joseph Catholic Church on North Main Street in Brewer to St. John Catholic Church on York Street in Bangor.
“It’s fun, it’s rewarding and there is also the spiritual connection with the group and the community — the Bangor community,” legionnaire Joseph Mendez, of Bangor, said just before the start of the procession as he strapped on one of his gladiator-style sandals.
Another Roman legionnaire, played by Adam St.Pierre, wore a GoPro video camera strapped to his chest and had a second camera set up at St. John’s to catch the group as they arrived in Bangor.
Costume coordinator Heather Brown said she, Diana Casey and others sewed together the outfits two years ago from materials donated by church members.
“I truly believe if you put something on, it changes you and you are able to become that person, and being able to walk this walk with Jesus and be involved in this way helps us live it,” Brown said. “It helps us experience this side of Jesus in a different way. It’s so powerful and it changes you.”
“I’m playing this part for everyone, and everyone is living the part through me,” said Hampden resident Katelyn Lyons, a senior at Hampden Academy, who plays the Virgin Mary. “It’s incredible.”
The pain of being condemned to death, taking up the massive wooden cross, and falling under its weight, could be seen on Maltz’s face during the re-enactment. Long hair fell in his face, bloody from his crown of thorns, as he struggled with his tasks along the holy procession.
For Maltz — who said it took nearly two months to grow the facial hair needed to play the role — the 10th, 11th and 12th stations, where Jesus is stripped of his garments, nailed to the cross and dies on the cross, are the most moving for him.
“I have to hold onto nails for about 30 minutes when I’m up on the cross and to think about how much longer he was on there,” the teenager said, trailing off his sentence. “I’m going to be grabbing onto nails, when they were driven through his hands. I’m going to be standing on a platform, when he was just nailed there.
“When I’m up there I feel naked and so alone, and I feel all the hatred,” Maltz said.
Jesus somehow found a way to forgive even in the death, which is one lesson Maltz has taken to heart.
“He didn’t feel that way. His last words were, ‘Father, please forgive them, for they do not know what they do,’” Maltz said.
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus takes up his cross.
3. Jesus falls for the first time.
4. Jesus meets his mother.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls for the second time.
8. Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.
12. Jesus dies on the cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his mother.
14. Jesus is placed in the tomb.