Anthony Zahra has been playing the part of Jesus in Dingli’s Good Friday street pageant for the past 12 years, without ever giving it a miss.

But with the 2020 pageant cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zahra this year performed in a somewhat different setting – in front of an elderly audience during a foot-washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday.

Zahra, a CareMalta employee who works as a security guard at Roseville home for the elderly, has been living in with the home’s residents since March 16.

The 53-year-old amateur actor, wearing a long robe sewn by his colleagues and sandals, recited the lines he had been studying for so long, after which he washed the residents’ feet.

“Acting the main part of Jesus every year is a huge commitment,” says the former driving instructor, who is extremely tall, has long, curly hair and looks just like Jesus.

“But shift work allows me to attend rehearsals which, in the run-up to the pageant, are held almost every day. Even though rehearsals are sometimes long, I always feel fully immersed in the character I’m portraying. The Lenten season, with its religious customs and festivities, is my favourite time of year. I’m so pleased I still got the chance to perform this year, despite what is going on,” he says.

Anthony has also played other parts in the past: a Jewish soldier who had to lash Jesus before being crucified, and Jairus, a ruler of a Galilee synagogue who had approached Jesus to heal his 12-year-old daughter.

“I just love going through the script and rehearsing for the final performance is always a new experience, even though I’ve been doing it for so long. The experience of mingling with the cast members and rehearsing together every day is an experience like no other. This year it’s even more meaningful. Just seeing the expression on the residents’ faces made it extra special.”