THE priest and broadcaster Angela Tilby recently wrote about the condition of “accidie” – the name given to what many are experiencing during this third lockdown of the pandemic.

Basing her definition on the writings of the 4th Century ascetic Evargius of Pontus, Tibly describes accidie as: “A listless boredom, a sense of confinement which seems both pressured and without boundaries, a depression of spirit as we contemplate a seemingly endless horizon of more of the same.”

Stirring underneath this condition were various drivers: sadness, grief and also an anger borne of frustration.

Tilby concludes by reflecting on what happens when grief turns into grievance, so that we look for people and things to blame for our maladies: the government, one another, the EU. As part of accidie we froth at the incompetency of others as a way of coping with our own discontent.

We punch outwards to conceal the sadness inside.

While accidie may describe the symptoms of what living under lockdown feels like to some, it masks a deeper loss and injury to the narrative which has become so prominent over past decades that we are all in control of our own lives with our own choices being the only defining factors at play. While the financial crash of 2008 pointed to the fragility of such a narrative, Covid has revealed more than the illusion that we are the sole masters and controllers of our destinies.

In the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in the Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus begins by announcing: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is, at first glance, a strange beginning – not least with the verse that immediately follows: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

To suggest that those who are broken by life, the poor in spirit, and the bereaved who grieve are all somehow blessed goes against all human understanding and experience. Yet it is precisely these people who understand the illusion of control, who experience life at its most raw and brutal.

And it is precisely at this place, when we acknowledge the limits of our self-sufficiency, and the emptiness of the narrative that says you can have it all by simply the dint of your own will and strength, that we open ourselves up to the freeing grace and love of God which meets us at the very base of our existence, scoops us up and puts us back together – not through our own strength, but through His.

The opposite of accidie is not some play on words of alkali but is in fact Grace – that unmerited favour which stands in contrast to karma.

It is Grace which neutralises the impacts of accidie, replacing the grief that turns into grievance with comfort for those who mourn.

The frustrations brought by the continuing nature of the lockdown are inevitable. Yet in dealing with them we all have the opportunity to embrace, and be embraced, by the freedom to be found in brokenness.

L Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church, Durham