Touching Place

St Nicholas, Normanton-on-Cliffe, Lincs

Your first instinct is that the neat 13th c.-style chancel with its triple lancets is ‘Victorian’, and you would be right. Behind it, though, is a much older building, with a 14th c. tower and a Perpendicular clerestory; step inside and see the

12th and 13th c. arcades. Each generation gave Normanton something; there is a set of Royal Arms dating from 1820 and a Jacobean pulpit. The 20th c. contributed chancel furnishings, particularly a set of corbels of the Passion – Ladder with spear and sponge; the Crown of Thorns; and the Five Wounds of Christ.

Devotion to the Five Wounds, the most Evangelical of the great Catholic devotions, spread widely through the late medieval church, with a popular Mass, Humilayit. Those who went on the Pilgrimage of Grace marched under banners bearing the Five Wounds, likewise the Western Rebellion of 1549, following the Blessed Sacrament. In the Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis says, ‘If you can not soar up as high as Christ sitting on his throne, behold him hanging on his cross. Rest in Christ’s Passion and live willingly in his holy wounds. You will gain marvellous strength and comfort in adversities’.

Normanton is a typical, ordinary, parish church, though not at present used. Let it be a metaphor for the unspectacular and faithful Christian life, a reminder that we can find God every day and that no Christian should feel worthless or rejected because they do not possess special gifts.

Recall the Suffering Servant: ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed’ [Isaiah 53.5].

Fetch a hymnbook and reflect:

Jesus, grant me this, I pray,  
Ever in thy heart to stay
 
Let me evermore abide
 

Hidden in thy wounded side.

Simon Cotton

Map reference SK 945 465

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