Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

What role does food and drink play in your worship services? What is it meant to represent?

The Eucharist is the central act of Catholic worship and indeed of the whole Christian life. Composed of two parts, the liturgies the Word and of the Eucharist, it is nonetheless, one single act of worship. The Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum concilium, in no. 47, reminds us that "At the Last Supper, on the night when he was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given".

In another sense, the Eucharist refers to the bread and wine which is consecrated and kept in reserve both for the sick and as a sign of Christs enduring presence in and to the church. Using other words, Paul speaks of it as a communion, a relationship of unity and harmony between ourselves and Christ: He uses the word koinonia for the Lords Supper to signify a double relationship: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?"

I believe that it was Justin Martyr, so long ago, who captured this sacrament when he wrote "...the food over which we give thanks has been given by the prayer of Jesus word, by which he nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation." It is in this mystery that we not only receive, but become, the body of Christ.