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Asking the Clergy: What is your favorite religious rite?

From left, Rabbi Yaakov Raskin of Chabad of

From left, Rabbi Yaakov Raskin of Chabad of Huntington Village, the Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Rev. David Anglin of St. Paul's Lutheran Church. Photo Credit: Yaakov Raskin; Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; Newsday / Rebecca Cooney

Spiritual leaders are called upon to officiate at a variety of celebrations — baptisms, bat and bar mitzvahs, weddings — and, of course, services marking the upcoming religious holidays. This week’s clergy discuss the joy and satisfaction that come from leading especially meaningful rituals.

The Rev. Winfred B. Vergara

Priest in charge, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Hicksville

Of all the sacramental rites I perform as priest of the Episcopal Church, my favorite is baptism. Baptism is a sacrament because it has an outward symbol and an inward grace. The symbol is water and the grace is new life in Christ.

After pouring water on her forehead in the baptismal formula, I would often raise a child (a la “The Lion King”) to signify that she is born again. In adult baptism, I would sometimes do immersion in the river, sea or swimming pool. The symbolism is that the person dies from sin (is drowned) and rises again to a new life in the spirit.

New life is sustained by other sacraments, especially Holy Communion — the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is important that the Christian actively belongs to the church, the community of faith. St. Paul’s analogy of the Church as the “Body of Christ” implies a love relationship that is so intimate that even in adversity, “when one member suffers, all suffer together and when one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

Rabbi Yaakov Raskin

Chabad of Huntington Village

As the heat of the summer decreases and the new school year begins, we begin to prepare for the upcoming Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. The climax of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar, a kosher ram’s horn. It is a powerful inspirational time in which congregation members of all ages join the services.

The sound of the shofar is similar to the wail of a child yearning to be reunited with a beloved parent. There are no words to express a longing that is so deep, so primal and so true. It is so meaningful to see the awakening of the Jewish soul and its eternal connection with God and the Torah at this time.

As I stand under the tallit, a prayer shawl, and blow the shofar, it is a prime time to connect with God and pray that we should all be blessed with a happy, healthy, sweet new year, and make new resolutions to increase our involvement in Jewish life throughout the year.

The Rev. David Anglin

Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Amityville

Picking a favorite among Christian religious rites is probably a bit like picking a favorite child. They all are wonderful and beautiful and joyful. How could one say, “I love this more than any other!”

Yet, when pressed, I would say that the celebration of Holy Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Eucharist) is the Christian rite that gives me the most satisfaction. It is truly the center of Christian life and worship. It’s a kind of time travel, actually — it carries us to the moment when Christ gave himself on the Holy Cross for our salvation. It makes that long-ago moment present for us today, as the bread and the wine bring us the body nailed to the cross for us, the blood shed for us.

It’s stunning to think that a sinful mortal like me has a role in bringing the cross of 30 A.D. into our time today. I, who put on my pants one leg at a time, am used by God to connect time and eternity, heaven and Earth. It is, for me, an unbelievable privilege. I am not worthy!

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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