The Brink of Despair and the Cup of Tea: St Sophrony and the Polarities of the Spiritual Life


Sat 13. April 2024, 15:00


Arvo Pärt Centre


Peter Bouteneff


St Silouan of Mount Athos is known for the phrase, “Keep your mind in hell, and despair not.” His disciple St Sophrony gave those words further nuance when he said: “Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea.” These challenging sayings make us wonder about the inner life and the divine encounter: what is the relationship between suffering and consolation, loss and hope, darkness and light? As we explore these mysteries, the music of a certain Estonian composer may bring some additional insight.

Peter Bouteneff teaches courses in theology, spirituality, and the arts at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, where he is professor of systematic theology and founding director of the Institute of Sacred Arts. His close kinship with the music of Arvo Pärt has led to the seminary’s Arvo Pärt Project, which has blossomed into a celebrated endeavor involving high-profile concerts, conferences, and publications. Peter Bouteneff is the author of several books, including Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence, which has also been translated into Estonian.

The lecture will be in English, with simultaneous interpretation into Estonian.


Transfer Tallinn‒Arvo Pärt Centre‒Tallinn

Book a transfer from Tallinn to Laulasmaa. At 2:00 p.m., the vehicle leaves Tallinn, Haabersti Cirkle K parking lot (Paldiski mnt 106) and arrives at the Arvo Pärt Centre 25 minutes before the start of the event. The return journey starts from the parking lot of the centre 15 minutes after the end of the lecture and takes you to the original meeting place.

The price of a round trip is €15 per person. Tickets and additional info at Fienta.


Attendance with the Arvo Pärt Centre's visitor ticket, free entrance with the Estonian Museum Card. We recommend to buy the ticket in advance.


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