The old man ripped out the stitching in the heavy cloth bag he had sewn in so many years ago. At 97 years now his time was short and the dream had finally come. The message to pass it on and the young man would be here soon. He finished the ripping, separated the two cloths, and pulled free the soft, strong, fabric sandwiched in between.
Byssus, the material was called, incredibly strong and beautiful, created from the threads of rock clinging ocean mussels; it was the material of kings and pharaohs.
The old man carried the folded fabric to his bed, his breath short and fast with anticipation and excitement. Gingerly he laid it on the bed and stepped back. He’d only seen it unfolded once before. That was when it was entrusted into his care when he too was a young man.
He stepped forward to unfold the cloth and the knock came at his door at that exact moment. It was a sign, a confirmation to him that this was the time and the right person to trust.
He opened the door to the young priest.
“Are you ready?” the old man asked.
“Yes, I had a dream this morning.”
“The messenger?” the old man asked, stepping back to let him into the room.
“Yes.” The young man’s eyes immediately went to the bed and the cloth.
Together the two men stepped to the bed, knelt, and went immediately into prayer. When they finished the young man helped the old man up.
“We are ready now,” the old man simply stated.
“Oh, yes,” the young man agreed.
Reverently, the old man reached down and unfolded the cloth and unfolded it a second time.
The room suddenly filled with the rich sweet fragrance of hundreds of flowers.
Filled with rapture and ecstasy, the two men dropped to their knees again.
Slowly, the fragrance disappeared, both men returned to normal, and the young man, once again, helped the older one to his feet.
“Why do we keep it hidden?” he asked.
“It’s a matter of faith,” the old man began, staring down at the images on the unfolded cloth. “There has never been any actual physical proof of His existence. Nothing scientists or the world today would call hard proof. This was on purpose. It has been and continues to be a matter of faith, you see.”
Both men leaned over to look closer at the images imprinted on the pure white material.
“In the future, perhaps in your lifetime, but certainly not in mine,” the old may said softly, “the true grail, the true shroud, and other sacred artifacts including this one will all become known. The holy wars are just starting. Faith and belief will be questioned, tested, and badly shaken. People with suffer and die, I’m afraid. That’s when you or someone like you will be directed to step forward with this magnificent proof.”
The both stood silently staring down at the unfolded cloth their hands clasped again in prayer.
Unfolded the cloth had two sides and on both sides was the image of the crucified Christ.
“The woman existed,” the old priest began. “She lived along the Via Delorosa and she did wipe the sweat and blood from the face of Jesus, twice, before she was driven away. Her name was not Veronica, that was used later to protect the woman and this cloth. It is also not in the Bible, but it is the truth none the less. You see for yourself! It is indeed real.”
The old man pulled the younger man away to a nearby table. On it were a needle, thread, and the two pieces of protective covering material removed earlier.
“The cloth is now yours to protect. Fold it and sew it back together to protect it. Guard it until you’re told to pass it on or deliver it forth. Hurry, I must rest now.”
The old man watched as the young man, after one last long look, folded the Sudarium of Veronica, reverently carried it to the table, placed it between the two heavy pieces of material, threaded the large thick needle and began to carefully sew it closed again.
With a long sigh, he then went to the bed, lay down, and allowed his soul and spirit to go to God before the sewing was complete. His task was done.
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