THINGS OF THE HIDDEN GOD: Journey to the Holy Mountain

Christopher Merrill, Author . Random House $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-679-46305-4

For well over 1,000 years, Mount Athos, a small peninsula in the Aegean Sea, has been the center of Eastern Orthodox Christian monasticism. Once home to 10,000 monks, its 20 monasteries and countless hermitages continue to attract hikers and pilgrims (only men allowed), including Merrill, an exhausted poet and essayist: "My marriage was in tatters, war reporting had taken the place of poetry and I was of an age to realize that the resolution of my latest health crisis was just a temporary reprieve." Searching for grace, he made five visits to Mount Athos between Lent of 1998 and Easter of 2000. By book's end, his marriage has revived, he has a new job and he is writing again. This is not, however, a starry-eyed paean to the Holy Mountain: Merrill candidly describes frequent instances of grudging hospitality, rank anti-Semitism and rudeness. Nor is it so much a book about personal renewal—he offers little concrete information about his relational and vocational struggles—as it is an extended reflection on the common sources of faith and poetry. "Prayer and poetry alike depend upon the unknown, although the poet's explorations belong to the temporal order while the monk fights for eternity." Though some may get bogged down in his frequent excursuses into literature, history and theology, others will find illumination in his wide-ranging mystical quest. (Feb. 15)

Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 300 pages - 978-1-4982-9252-8
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