The second time the flesh was harder to put onand there was no womb to shape and soften it, unless it were Joseph's tomb in the cut rock that shaped, perhaps, but more misshaped to a kept mask, as a wet shoe is hardened as it dries to a foot shape and the print of a step, but not to the moving muscle and bone that walking was. What wonder then that Mary, who loved his life, mistook him for the gardener, and humbled by love, asked only where they had lain him that took him away.
The men, too, were uncertain they saw at first. Thomas doubted and thrust his hand in the wounds. There must have been some subtle difference gone from the flesh they loved, or a difference newly come to make a change in it. Say the change was death that had wrought hard with it; or say the fact this flesh appeared and disappeared without their knowing bewildered them. They did rejoice, but only as though their hope had stretched too far. And Peter went back to cast his nets on the sea.
Some grief is stronger than any joy before or after it, and life survives. It feeds within itself on grief, not nourished then by other food, as winter trees survive because they do not feed. Their mouths refused, almost, the taste of the brief return; grief seared, they could not savor it. The time did come— but it was afterwards, that a new joy leafed over their grief as a tree is leafed. It was the tree of grief that grew these leaves.
We share the movement that young birds learn when clumsy with size, they grow to empty air and fall, and find the empty air sustains. So we are lofted in our downward course by the wide void of loss through which we fall to loss and lose again, until we too are lost in a heavier element—the earth or sea. We grow in stature: grief is real and loss is for life, as long as life. Long flight, soar freely, spiral and glide in the empty air.
(found via Andrew Sullivan)