Centred around three journeys to Mount Athos, one of the most important places in Orthodox Christianity, this is both a beautifully nuanced travel book and a journey of self-discovery in a world beset by violence and fear. Mount Athos is the spiritual home of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and for more than ten centuries this monastic community in northern Greece has been a centre for contemplative life, a staging ground for mystical visions and teachings, and a watch tower for Byzantium. A world unto itself, which has existed almost unchanged since medieval times, the theocratic state of Athos is a spiritual haven which stands in dramatic counterpoint to the contemporary world. Even time is calculated differently here -- Athos rejects the Julian calendar and clocks are reset every day to Byzantine time -- midnight falls at sunset. Christopher Merrill travelled to Mount Athos in search of spiritual renewal and a vision of eternity. At this unique intersection of modernity and Biblical tradition he discovered not only the enduring value of faith but also how much Athos has to teach us about the contemplative life, and found that eternity is located in the here and now.
Journey to the Holy Mountain is a book rooted in spiritual crisis, which explores a route to salvation hitherto undocumented in a mainstream Western context. Out of spiritual desolation Merrill came to a deepening sense of the religious life, learning to recognize what have been described as 'the distinctive challenges and calls' of each monastic hour. The world of Mount Athos is closely guarded against intrusion by monk-policemen: no women, or even female animals, are allowed on Athos and the number of visitors is severely restricted. Christopher Merill describes, in vivid scenes and stories, the daily life ritual and scenery of a place which most will never be able to visit.
Christopher Merrill's books include three collections of poetry and three works of nonfiction, and he has won numerous awards for his poetry. His journalism appears in the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. He holds the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross. He and his wife, Lisa Gowdy-Merrill, have a daughter, Hannah.