Mark Gauvreau Judge

Concert of the Year

A holy joy.

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As I watched her, I thought of something Jelon Vieira, the capoeira dancer, had said earlier in the evening. Nick Spitzer had observed that his dance, with its martial arts element, often seemed on the verge of breaking into genuine violence. Vieira said that his job, as the adult supervisor of a dance that is done by a lot of young people, is to teach self-mastery. "If you don't have control over yourself," he said, "you have control over nothing." It reminded me of something written by Pope Benedict when he was still Joseph Ratzinger: "Today an illusion is dangled before us: that a man can find himself without first conquering himself, without the patience of self-denial and the labor of self control; that there is no need to endure the discomfort of upholding tradition, or to continue suffering the tension between the ideal and the actual in our nature."

By the time Sue Park drifted into the circle, the performers and audience had reached a level of genuine religious ecstasy that only comes when we have, through hard work and overcoming the actual in our nature, allowed the ideal in our nature room to play.

After about thirty bars of saints marching in, it finally took Nick Spitzer to shut things down. No one wanted to leave; I honestly believe the band could have played for an hour and no one would have moved for the exits. Staggering outside, I heard a woman say she was "swimming in joy." I myself was speechless. Then I heard someone say, "God, I hope there was someone from the media there." I thought of saying that I was in the media. But then I had the decency to admit there were times when language failed. Like everyone else, I just wanted to stay inside the joy.

Mark Gauvreau Judge's new book, A Tremor of Bliss: Reclaiming Sexual Virtue from the Pagan Left, will be published by Doubleday in April 2009.

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