Weeping Cross, Ripley

In the churchyard at Ripley in North Yorkshire is a strange cross-base, called the weeping cross. Before the time of Reformation, it likely hosted a crucifix which was removed, and quite rightly. Now, only this base survives, with these rather unusual grooves which a nearby sign explains were for the knees of penitent pilgrims. To pay for some misdemeanour or shorten one’s stay in purgatory, visitors would kneel by the cross and pray before it. The groove neatly accommodated one of my knees, but not both, and it was well-nigh impossible to insert a knee into the next. Libby Ashworth thinks the grooves were for the penitent’s head, so he would really have been prostrate when he came to pray. I did not try my head in the groove.

You may have guessed that I do not approve of many pre-Reformation practices, though approaching the Cross, by faith, is something we should each do, and regularly. One might imagine that the more a Christian takes communion, the more familiar it becomes and the less moving he finds it. I have found the opposite to be true. I have taken it once or twice monthly since 1988, and it is more powerful now than ever it was before. I am so incredibly moved by the sacrifice that the Lord Jesus offered for my redemption. In that wine and bread, I behold my sins, which are many, and His righteousness and love, which are infinite. Charles Wesley wrote:

Is crucified for me and you,

To bring us rebels back to God.

Believe, believe the record true,

Ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.

Pardon for all flows from His side:

My Lord, my love, is crucified!

I do not mind pilgrimages, but I despise the false doctrines of purgatory and DIY salvation which inspired them. Yet each communion service, we come to the foot of the cross, heads bowed, knees bent, tears flowing. If communion does not cause us to weep (albeit inwardly), has it become too familiar, our regard for it contemptuous? We seek not outward shows, but let us come to the cross with the sincerity, if not the theology, of Ripley’s weeping pilgrims.

Then let us sit beneath His cross,

And gladly catch the healing stream;

All things for Him account but loss,

And give up all our hearts to Him;

Of nothing think or speak beside,

My Lord, my love, is crucified!