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A Jewish tradition of that time would reveal to us the important message represented by that apparently insignificant gesture
The Gospel according to Saint John, in chapter 20, tells us about a canvas that had been placed on the Face of Jesus when He was buried, at the end of the afternoon of Good Friday.
It happens that, after the Resurrection , when the tomb was found empty, that canvas was not fallen to one side, like the sheet that had wrapped the Body of Jesus. The Gospel reserves an entire verse to tell us that the canvas was carefully folded and placed at the head of the stone mound.
But why did Jesus fold the linen cloth that covered His head in the grave after resuscitating?
Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the place and discovered that the heavy stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb had been removed. She ran and found Simon Peter and another disciple, the one whom Jesus loved so much – St. John the Evangelist – and told them:
“They removed the Body of the Lord and I do not know where they took Him!”
Peter and the other disciple ran to the grave. John passed Peter and arrived first. He stopped and looked at the canvases, but did not enter. Then Simon Peter arrived, entered the tomb and saw the canvases left there, while the cloth that had covered the Divine Face was folded and placed on one side.
This is important? Definitely.
Is this significant? Yes.
In order to understand the meaning of the folded canvas, we have to understand a bit the Jewish tradition of the time.
The folded canvas has to do with a daily dynamic between the master and the servant – and every Jewish child knew that dynamic well. The servant, when preparing the dining table for the master, tried to be certain of doing exactly the way desired by his master.
After the table was prepared, the servant was waiting outside the master’s vision until he finished eating. The servant would never dare to touch the table before the master had finished. When finished, the master would get up, clean his fingers, mouth and beard, make a ball with the canvas and leave it on the table. The crumpled canvas meant: ” I’m finished .”
Now, if the master got up and left the canvas folded next to the plate, the servant would not dare to touch the table yet, because that folded canvas meant: “I will return!”.