Photo by the author
The Nada Chronicles, part 47
By Hans Brockhuis
with contributions by Rudi Klijnstra
Translation: Helen Maijenburg
- 1 -
Mother Ana hurried from the rectory to the small stone church of Het Stift at Weerselo. She urgently needed to pray and ask for strength from the Almighty. She just got tidings which no doubt could mean the biggest change ever in the life of The Stift. Of course she knew about the storm of reformation that had raged and still did through the Netherlands and big parts of Europe. But up till now Oversticht region and Twenthe being a part of it, were spared. Recently the city Oldenzaal was conquered on the Spaniards by the state troops and the council of Overijssel had decreed that The Stift at Weerselo too was to join the reformation movement. The reverent Adam Lindenhovius was already appointed and he would run the first reformative service in the church the day after tomorrow – Sunday.
Pastor Johannes de Borch had been present at this conversation. Ana had seen that this always so stout-hearted man had experienced exceptionally difficult times and he was on the verge of tears. It must not have been easy for him and the only thing he had added to the meeting was his announcement to resign immediately and his return to his place of birth.
Before she could summon The Stift damsels to put forth the tidings she sought for strength before the altar and talked straight to the big crucifix that was placed there ages ago.
“Dear Ana do not fear, for many changes turn out to be better than was expected,” the crucifix seemed to say to her. “It is not so much that I want to exalt the new religion. Important is if the way in which that religion is experienced will be crucial for the well being of those who believe. It is not important whether that faith is celebrated under the regime of Rome or that others wield the sceptre. After all, faith can also be professed under the Cross Tree of the Fleringer Es . In this way it can be said that the intention is predominant and not the surroundings in which the intention is pronounced.”
“Ana, what is of importance for your disciples now, is the way whereupon they handle their faith in a comfortable way. I advice you to speak to your pastor first and ask him to stay as long as the damsels wish to retain the roman faith. He then can, for example, celebrate his masses in the vicarage for those who feel like it. In the meantime preacher Lindenhovius – who is by the way a very honourable man – can bring the church into readiness to the way he wants to preach his faith. Little by little his services will ever be attended better until the unavoidable day comes on which no Roman worship will be allowed on the Stift any more. As indicated before it is nothing to be sad about. Go now Ana and talk to the pastor.”
Ana found the pastor in the rectory where he and his housekeeper were busy packing all sort of crates. She asked if he could see her and he said yes after which the pastor told her he would leave the next day. Pastor Johannes looked extremely self-assured. “Listen my child; it looks as if I’m abandoning you all but that is not the case. I have spoken to father Smithuis. You’ve seen him here once or twice with his horse carriage. He has offered to read mass from time to time in “the holy cottage” near the Kroezeboom at Fleringen. It is up to you to send out messengers to Weerselo and Fleringen to make the believers heedful to that. You and the damsels who wish such can make use of it.”
Ana had to digest this. The Kroezeboom stood on a crossing of ley lines and was a sign of justice. The little field chapel that stood beside the tree was often visited by vagrant people and in the alcove in front of the little altar were always flowers. This chapel was never recognized by the Catholic Church because of the fact the goddess Tanfana used to be honoured there, a remnant from pagan times.
Ana knew that most sagas about the goddess Tanfana descended from the period Twenthe already was Christianized and the moon and sun cult slowly ceased to exist. Tanfana was a goddess of fertility and she was honoured especially with thank-offerings after abundant harvests. According to the Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Tanfana was the head goddess of the Germanic tribe of the Marsen. In the year 9 AD they had fought along in a revolt against the Romans who had suffered an enormous defeat in the battle of the Teutoburger Wald.
- 2 -
Strengthened by her prayer and her interview with Father Johannes, mother superior hastened to the house where the damsels lived and shared with them the news. Not surprisingly these tidings had the impact of a bomb but in general the news was received with the necessary scepticism and two of the damsels avowedly declared they would join the vicar’s faith.
Ana was satisfied that most of the damsels thought the same thing. The next day the workmen started carrying off all kinds of ornaments from the church and took them away with an unknown destination. Relieved she ascertained there was no violence involved for she had heard that in many other churches elsewhere in the country the iconoclasm had raged. Nothing of that was to be perceived here. Under the guidance of the honorary vicar who proved to be agreeable man all was germinated with a dignity which didn’t make Ana happy but it gave her a feeling that the possessions of others were at least handled with love.
Because of that daily live at the bishopric went on as before rather well on the understanding that Sunday mass became Sunday service. Ana had been participating in the first service. She had missed Pastor Johannes, the acolyte on the altar and most of all the breaking of the bread and the wine that wasn’t poured out. Ana thought it an unadorned affair but she had to admit that vicar Lindenhovius did do his utmost to please everyone.
- 3 -
Two weeks after that , Ana walked with some of the damsels to the Fleringer Es. It was a beautiful summer weather Sunday and all kinds of birds warbled in the shrubbery that edged the path and although it was Ana strange at heart she longingly looked forward to the gathering at the Kroezeboom, whereby at least one could speak of a real mass including bread and wine.
When the damsels came out of the woods and set foot on the open Es they could see some believers had gathered round the tree already. Father Smithuis’s cart had arrived too and there was a sphere of expectance hanging around. A tangible feeling surrounded them, proclaiming something great that was about to happen.
“Dearly beloved”, father Henricus spoke to the crowd standing on his cart in his ecclesiastical robes. “The essence of life is love. In all its simplicity this statement makes you aware that you are all on your way to your own destiny when you integrate love into your daily life. It doesn’t matter from which angle you look at it. The fact we all came together by this magnificent tree marks a new era that has dawned in the Netherlands and now dawned too in our beloved Twenthe. But do not let it withhold you to understand that love is the essence of all what it is about in life. Love for the church. Love for your family. Love for others. Love for all that’s alive. Are they really opponents? Perhaps you think that those others who adhere the reformation are apostates? But didn’t Christ teach his disciples to turn the other cheek when they would be beaten?...”
Ana was grateful that father Henricus thought the same way as the new vicar. Both refused to see the other as an opponent. And both saw each other more as exponents of the faith in the same source whereof it is true the stream had split into two forks, but would be as such and forever belonging to the same river basin. And so this sunny day, apparently one like any other, had become a very special one. It made you realize that Love was the Alpha and Omega of life and that cleft ness was not the right way.
After mass Ana and the damsels returned home to the bishopric with a satisfied feeling. It was the beginning of a new era. A time that would be plucked as it came and meant new opportunities for everyone whatever religion you adhered. Hadn’t they just learned under the Kroezeboom that life is love? Ana fervently hoped there would never be differences in her bishopric at the Stift.
Kroezeboom means Cross
Tree: the name is used in the eastern part of The Netherlands. It
is a tree indicating a border or crossing. Such trees were planted
between 1500 en 1600 and could have several functions as place of
justice, boundary mark or holy place for gatherings or prayer.