I once had a conversation with my mother that went something to the effect of: "Is it all just the externals? Crossing yourself, Jesus on a crucifix, candles, robes?" I kind of stare blankly. At that particular point in our year of exploration these things had stopped being externals and just part of Sunday morning. I had a moment today that went something like, the one thing I would say that I really like about being Orthodox that is actually an external: The Cherubic Hymn. I called it an external because, truly, it's just one hymn out of the thousands of available hymns that have been written over the past 8 millenia or so of worship.
We sing a very beautiful Cherubic Hymn at our parish. It's very American. I love it. Lots of playing back and forth between the four parts. Not to mention the echo created by the two not-exactly-domes we have in our Nave. I love that moment. We sing it through twice. The way our service goes is slightly different than other parishes, and by the time the Great Entrance comes around we've finished it and need to go again. It's my favorite part of the service. No matter what parish we happen to be in, it will always be my favorite part.
A friend at our old parish once told me that the thing that got him convinced of Orthodoxy was this moment. If that's not actually Jesus coming through the people, then why bother. If we aren't actually welcoming the King of Glory, let's all go home. I remember the first time this hymn had truly caught my attention. That line, "Let us now lay aside all earthly/worldly cares," just arrested my attention. I had been so distracted by the cares and worries of my life and then...reminded. I still haven't taken communion--I'm not one of the faithful, yet--but I have been part of that heavenly procession. I want to know this more and more.
One of the things I like about being Orthodox: The Cherubic Hymn.