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 is the importance of symbolism in your weekly rituals and liturgy? Are fewer people responding to it?

The primary symbol of Christian meaning is the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Our tradition has a wealth of symbols and stories that nourish our present. Being faithful to that tradition means allowing all those voices to speak. The sanctoral cycle of the church year is the backdrop against which our symbols are revealed. They are woven into all of our sacramental celebrations. All lead to and flow from the Sunday Eucharist. Distinguished from private prayer, which is an essential part of the Christian experience, public worship in the Eucharist and all the other sacraments, is the source and summit of our life. Always related to the paschal mystery, it can be characterized by a spirit of praise and thanksgiving, rooted in our collective recollection of Gods saving deeds and a living hope in the final establishment of the Kingdom of God. It is equally a place where we offer prayers of supplication.

It is Christ who gathers us for each Eucharistic celebration. Here, we are first of all reconciled with him and then with each other; subsequently he speaks to us in his Word; and after that, through the action of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood which we, in turn, receive - to be transformed also into his body and blood. At the end of each celebration we are sent forth by the priest to bring Christ into our portion of Christs world.

Are fewer people responding to it? At the Cathedral, in recent years, we have seen a striking increase in the numbers of people who come together to celebrate, now seven times each weekend. So it is with gratitude that the transforming, timeless beauty and richness of the liturgy is celebrated so often, reaching more people than ever.