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Short Trip to the Edge

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"In Short Trip To The Edge, Scott Cairns pulls back the curtain and gives us a glimpse of the spiritual energy present on the Holy Mountain. He approaches his prose with the soul and skill of a poet. It is at once simple and profound-accessible and ineffable. Scott has the boldness to confront the deepest parts of our human nature with fierce honesty and humor. It's a place where "pilgrims are a mixed bag," holy relics make the heart race and true spirituality is an "acquired taste." The reader, (or should I say pilgrim) is invited to travel along a beautiful and potentially frightening road into the heart of silence, repentance and prayer. There is a palpable sense of being there: surrounded by a timeless chorus of voices chanting on The Holy Mountain, praying for the life of the world. One slowly loses the desire to arrive and begins to embrace the possibility of "always becoming." Scott Cairns pours out his soul in this brilliant and much needed book. It is well worth the taking this short trip to the edge!" -Jonathan Jackson, star of the hit ABC show Nashville and author of The Mystery Of Art "Scott Cairns is not only one of the most vital poets of our time but also a prose writer of uncommon vision, and in Short Trip to the Edge, his account of his pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos, in northern Greece, he weaves together a personal history of faith, a wealth of learning, and the wisdom of the ages to create a book for spiritual seekers from every religious denomination. What better guide, and travel companion, than Scott Cairns? I would follow him to the edge-and beyond." -Christopher Merrill, author of Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain "Mt. Athos is 'the edge' in more ways than one, a place both beautiful and ruggedly challenging, alive with spiritual power that shares the same qualities. Cairns is the ideal guide-relaxed, invitingly conversational, and often amused, but always evoking the awe that these mysteries deserve." -Frederica Mathewes-Green "A Short Trip to the Edge is an exceptional and compelling book. Scott Cairns has a poet's eye and a story-tellers flair, so that mystical experience and profound theology are bodied forth in memorable images and vivid scenes, instead of being lost in abstraction. This book witnesses to the way ancient truths can become vivid, true and life-changing in the here and now. This is a short trip you will never forget." --Rev. Dr. Malcolm Guite, Girton College, Cambridge

About the Author

Scot McKnight, Ph.D. is Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard Illinois. He is the award-winning author of The Jesus Creed, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, The Real Mary, Embracing Grace and Praying with the Church. Scot lives with his wife, Kristen, in the Chicago suburbs and has two children, Laura and Lukas, and two grandchildren.


We have heard about pilgrimages of lands and terrains; distances and heights. What about the practice of prayer? In this book, Scott Cairns does both. Calling Mount Athos (Agion Oros) in Northern Greece a "Holy Mountain," Cairns has been making trips to encounter the meaning of being "inhabited by a holy presence." It is also the readying of the heart to encounter God not only in the speedy race of life but also the slowing pace of reflectiveness. Given time, even the slowest would eventually make the turn. Even the highest mountain would be climbed. ...I appreciate this creative description of the learning of prayer. By infusing prayer throughout the book and the humility to keep learning how to pray, this book enables us to read it prayerfully. Many times, we read with the purpose of mining information. Due to the constant rush for deadlines, busyness with many other activities, and the incessant demands on our time, we can fail to listen to that soft whisper of God. There must be a reason why Paul teaches us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). As children of God, our heavenly Father often wants to reach out and touch us. When we pray, we are more sensitive to this outreach from heaven to earth. We are more open to sense the touch of the Spirit in our hearts. We learn best to pray when we let God lead and guide us. The way that Cairns describes his learning is something we can all learn from. For all the detailed descriptions of his pilgrimage, do not miss out on his reflective moments that leave him wanting more of God, more pilgrimages, and more prayer.-Conrade Yap, Paranorma of a Book Saint This is a revised edition of a book published in 2006, chronicling the author's first three pilgrimages to Mount Athos in northern Greece. Since then, he tells us in the preamble to the new edition, he has returned 17 times (!). An adult convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, Cairns is best known as a poet, and he writes with a poet's eye for luminous detail and impatience with cant. That adds freshness and a wry authenticity to his heartfelt account of the life of prayer. "It is not, finally, my prayer that I'm after," he writes, "but the prayer of the Holy Spirit in me, praying ... connecting me to Christ and, as it happens, his existential Body, the church." From John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture. Christianity Today, June 2016

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