In Cambodia there are three Orthodox churches and the country’s sole priest, Father Roman, is using a Khmer translation of The Faith of the Saints: A Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church from Saint Nicolai of Zica to teach Cambodian catechumens. The catechism is interesting in that it is from the 20th century and it is written by a recent saint.
Sadly for us, the edition we have (though it was initially published in the United States as Saint Nicolai immigrated there after World War II) is not always perfect–it has either suffered from incomplete proof-reading or bad translation. Nevertheless, it gives us a good overview of Orthodox theology in some western-oriented language. Saint Filaret of Moscow’s Longer Catechism is another such source written this way.
The following are highlights for the catechism which I think may shock both Orthodox and Protestant readers, but because they are written by a saint we know they have authority within the Church. For example, pages 9 through 12, which gives Saint Nicolai’s view of the Canon, names 66 books (as per the Protestant Canon) but also says that Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon “are used in the Church” not specifying what this means. The edition I read was printed by Serb National Federation in Pittsburgh, PA in 1949.
Salvation is not by our own effort
The Christian faith is the knowledge of Christ–the most important mysteries of being and life–which knowledgeable men can only accept only by believing in Him and never acquiring it by their own efforts (p. 5). (Note: I touched up sentence which originally said “Christ’s knowledge of most important mysteries” which I rendered “the knowledge of Christ…” in order to make the passage clearer. There appears to have been a translation/proofreading issue.)
How could the eternal justice of God allow that Jesus should die a cruel death being wholly innocent? He died for no sin of His own but for our sins. [The e]ternal justice of God required such an innocent and priceless sacrifice for Adam’s sin and ours (p. 25).
Under all circumstances our Lord [and] Saviour shall have the full number of the saved souls as He foresaw at the beginning of the world drama. And none of those who believe in Him and invoke His name shall perish (p. 32).
No salvation outside the Church
Can a man be saved outside the Church? No. For the Church is the depository of God’s grace, without which, no man can be saved. As an arm cut off from the body (p. 39).
No one who is outside the Church can be saved just as no one outside Noah’s ark could have been saved. — St. Dimitry of Rostov (quoted on p. 111)
Are we saved only by God’s grace? Yes, if we willingly accept God’s grace by faith expressed in good works (p. 47).
No salvation for the unbaptized
How then are considered the parents who carelessly let their little ones die unbaptised? As the killers of their own children (p. 49).
God permits evil
We are asking God [when we say “lead us not into temptation”] to remember our human weakness and not to try us by heavy afflictions for our edification, nor to allow the devil to tempt us to our destruction (p. 85).