Life and Death in the Orthodox World

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

ScreenHunter_2157 Aug. 19 16.38I am not an Orthodox Christian. (I am not an orthodox anything.) Among my immediate blood ancestors there is Scandinavian Lutheranism, Southern Baptism, and Mormonism (I am not just any Smith, either). I wound up in a private Catholic school, and as a strategy to make me fit in better socially I was caused to be baptized at the age of 13 (the strategy didn't work). My mother re-married into the reform Jewish world, and now on that side of the family bar mitzvahs and Passover are as important as any other dates on the calendar. My father, I take it, is a libre penseur, but often mentions how impressed he was by Thomas Aquinas's version of the cosmological argument (that there must be a first cause).

To this not totally atypical history of American mongrelism it should be added that I have spent significant portions of my life in the Orthodox Christian world, and have had many important life experiences within it, involving both love and death. These experiences have at times caused me to respond, at least aesthetically and perhaps even 'spiritually', to Orthodox symbols: to say inwardly, at the sight of a blackened icon, something like, 'I get it'.

If I may attempt to distill some sort of essence out of Orthodox Christianity in just a few words, it is the variety of Christianity that still takes love and death seriously, that continues to have its hand in the way these are lived by individual members of the church, and to actively and minutely prescribe the ritual forms through which they are to be lived. The Enlightenment never happened, there is nothing about sola fide, and religion remains deeply entrenched in, some might say confined by, ritual.

More here.