The Corporal of the Rite of Lyon

The corporal of the Rite of Lyon

The Archdiocese of Lyon, the Prima Sedes Galliarum, has a very ancient particular liturgy, the Rite of Lyon (Rite Lyonnais). This immemorial rite, a variant of the Roman Rite, dates from around the Carolingian period (8th-9th century). It comes in direct line from Rome. This historic link with the memory of the past is thankfully being preserved by a handful of traditional priests in the See of Lyon, thus preserving an immense cultural edifice that has been a part of the local diocesan church for centuries.

Rite of Lyon altar missal

The Rite of Lyon has many very interesting "extras" that developed organically over the centuries. One such worthy of mention here is the extra-large linen corporal, a common sight in medieval liturgies (an early version of the pall). 

In Lyon, they have kept the use of the large corporal which has the same width as a normal corporal, with one change: it has double the length. It is larger because in the rite the back part of it is extended to cover the chalice like a shroud, as seen in the photos below. Thus, in some ways it reflects the burial cloth of Christ).

One beautiful parish preserving the Rite of Lyon is the church of Saint-Just in Lyon. Since 2014, this church has been under the care of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). The corporal seen in these photos was custom made in Rome. When I visited Lyon in 2018 I had the good pleasure to hearing about the Rite of Lyon from my good friend Fr. Brice Meissonnier, FSSP, who at that time was pastor. He very kindly showed me how the chalice is placed on the corporal and how it covers the chalice, as demonstrated in the photo below. Merci, monsieur l'abbé!

The corporal must also be ironed and pressed a certain way

The corporal is placed in such a way that the excess can be folded over the top, as seen here

The chalice is wrapped in the corporal, as seen here

All of the great local churches and monasteries of the Christian world have in the past been associated with or identified with different liturgical traditions. This can be seen in Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Milan, Toledo, Lyon, and other places. All of the different rites of the Latin and Greek traditions, West and East, enrich the rich fabric of worship and help preserve and transmit Catholic culture.

The influence of these different rites and liturgical and musical practices have survived all the changes in fashion and times of persecution, continuing to bear fruit down to modern times. The Rite of Lyon has comforted the souls of generations of Catholics in the Primatial See of Gaul. It has been a safeguard by which the Church has carried out the work of Christian acculturation on the local level. It is a rite which dominated the whole development of the liturgical culture and spirituality in France.

Liturgy is a language and it is the creator and transmitter of culture. By this sacred rite the people of Lyon were set part from all other peoples of the Catholic world, bringing them into contact with a higher order of liturgy that God brought about for their own sanctification and for His own greater honor and glory. The Rite of Lyon transmitted the vibrancy of Christian culture with proven effectiveness, helping to preserve Lyon as a nucleus of faith and purveyor of liturgical arts.   

The extra cloth is simply folded over flat, as seen here

And this brings us to today. There is a vital role of individuals who are called by God, often without their knowledge, to carry out a particular mission. This was seen in the calling of Abraham and Moses and the prophets and saints. Christians are called to bear witness against our age and to change the current of history. 

Many thanks to the great priests of Lyon and dedicated lay faithful who are preserving this resplendent and meaningful tradition. Lyon is a liturgical capital of the world and the Rite of Lyon is worth saving - because it is part of a noble lineage and because it is from God and linked to the tradition of the Church. The Rite itself has a role which sets it in opposition to all the dominant forces of the contemporary world. 

The chalice is wrapped more than once, as seen here

I encourage readers to make a visit to Lyon to see and experience Low Mass celebrated in the Rite of Lyon. The wonderful FSSP parish of Saint-Just offers the Rite of Lyon every Sunday morning at 8:30 am. In addition, the diocesan parish of Saint-Georges offers the Rite every Sunday morning at 9:00 am. Visiting both churches for Holy Mass is a life-changing experience. Perhaps one day Pontifical Mass (La Messe Pontificale Lyonnaise) will again be sung in the City of Lyon, as befits the mighty Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, with chapters of canons, and many seminarians, deacons and subdeacons. When it happens, I will be there.   

The corporal resembles the burial cloth of Christ, as seen here


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