Many were disheartened by the fact that the beautiful hymn, ‘Abide with me’ was taken out of the Beating Retreat. The song has been part of the closing Republic Day celebrations since 1950. Millions around the country are sad to see Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite hymn disappear from the ceremony. But the action might actually be symbolic of something that we are all inevitably doing – the tendency in us to take God out of the picture and replace it with something else, to cancel Him out because there are many other things that capture our attention. It is not merely a particular group of people or a few in power, but a propensity within each one of us to abandon the highest because it does not fit our personal agendas.

 

Thankfully though the song is not talking about our ability to abide with God, but how God abides with us. It is not pointing to our faithfulness to God but rather His absolute faithfulness to us. No matter how far we move away from Him, He will abide with us. There is no place we can go where His love cannot reach us. Despite our rejection of Him, His love is constantly stretching out to us.

 

One can imagine the words of this hymn on Mahatma Gandhi’s lips during the innumerable times he fasted for the unity of India. When all his physical power was being sapped out of him, the hymn would revive his inner strength to carry on his noble mission. He had the absolute confidence that God would never abandon him and stated that God’s power can most visibly be felt when one is in one’s weakest and most vulnerable state.

 

It is said that the Scottish Hymn writer Henry Francis Lyte, wrote the hymn in 1847, as he was dying of tuberculosis. He too was in his weakest moment and wrote the hymn as an expression of his absolute confidence, that despite his situation, God was abiding with him. It is a God whose presence is deeply felt by those who open their hearts to Him.

 

So instead of feeling bitter towards the powers that took out the hymn from the ceremony, we could use the opportunity to put the words of the hymn deeply in our hearts. As Omicron surges through the nation, let us have the confidence that despite it all God abides with us. It is the greatest hope we have.

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