‘How I read the Bible in Two Months’: Essay
Since I was a teenager, I’ve loved to read and study the Holy Bible. However, I had never actually read the entire Bible from start to finish at one go. I read certain books of the Bible and ignored others. But in my bibliophile’s heart, there was always this wish that one day I would read the Bible in its entirety. However, I didn’t act on it. I read many religious books including the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Vedas, and other Christian works but never the Bible. But suddenly in 2017, something happened.
I am an existentialist. I live to read and read to live, that is the basic core of my being. One evening in a resto-bar dedicated to books, reading, and good food, I read Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life by Michael Dirda. It was a hot late December evening and I was sipping peach-iced tea as I read the book in a dark corner of the resto-bar. Dirda’s book was one of the best books I read in 2017 and it was a defining moment for me as a book phoenix. Dirda, in that book, mentioned the books one should read to understand other books better. One of the books on his list was the Bible. Dirda’s statement moved me. His emphasis on the point that the Bible could edify a reader and writer of books made me decide then and there that I would start reading the Bible. After finishing two more glasses of peach-iced tea, I headed back home in my private taxi and pulled out my copy of the Catholic Bible from my religious bookshelf. I chose The New Community Bible. I had bought the Bible in the year 2008 but I can’t recall when and where. What I do remember is that I managed to get it blessed by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, one of my favorite priests of all time. I started reading the Bible, right from the introduction.
The rest of December was spent by me reading the Bible with a lot of dedication. But in came 2018 which was a roller-coaster ride for me. I was busy with non-stop teaching, preparing notes, and PowerPoints. Then I was busy with my first memoir The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra and abridging rare classics for children. I was just juggling with so many tasks that after the first week of January 2018, I stopped reading the Bible. I placed it on one of my favorite bookshelves, the massive Shanbaug Burma teak bookshelves which I bought from the now shut Strand Bookstore of Mumbai. I’ve mentioned how I acquired these massive bookcases in both my bibliophile memoirs: The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra and Scenes of a Reclusive Writer and Reader of Mumbai. I placed The New Community Bible on the shelf and forgot about it till March 2020. But then came COVID-19 and everything changed in a matter of seconds.
I am a hardcore workaholic. I love to teach, read, and write. With the lockdown in Mumbai starting just after my thirty-first birthday, I realized that I would have a lot of time on my hands to read a lot of books since my workload would be lesser than usual. Then came the participation at Mass. All of us at home wondered how we were going to attend Catholic Mass and how we would receive Holy Communion.
“No one can stop us from going to Mass,” my elder uncle David cried out in annoyance. “I’m going to the Church.”
“What will you do by going there, the churches have been locked down!” my younger more practical uncle Blaise yelled back at him as he massaged his temple. “No one can go out. It’s a lockdown and we are under quarantine.”
“But-but what about Communion?” gasped David uncle falling deeper into his easy chair.
It was then that I realized that some parish priests were live streaming or recording their masses on Facebook and YouTube. I immediately subscribed to their channels and my family and I started participating at Mass from the 21st of March, 2020. The first few masses that we saw were the ones live streamed from St. Jude’s Church, Malad, the celebrant being the erudite Fr. Warner D’Souza. It was on that day during one of Fr. Warner’s sermons that he continually referred to the Holy Bible.
Suddenly, I was inspired. I was inspired by something in me, which had been dead for quite a while, to pick up my copy of The New Community Bible. After Mass, I went to my Shanbaug bookcase and pulled out the Bible. I went into the hall and I made a simple but life-defining statement: “I’m going to read the whole Bible from start to finish. And then I will teach others about the Bible.”
Blaise asked me whether that meant I wanted to evangelize but I was in a daze. I didn’t know what made me do it, but I said it. From the night of the 21st of March, 2020, I read the Bible back again from the start.
Now, as I read and reflected on the Bible, I realized something strange was happening to me. I was falling in love with the Bible. We would do our teaching, corrections, blogging, writing, and other daily chores of the day. The evenings at our house were dedicated to participating at the holy Mass celebrated by Fr. Warner or by Cardinal Oswald Gracias. I have always maintained the fact that since the age of sixteen, I have been preparing for Armageddon. This means that I have collected or hoarded thousands of books over fifteen years. I was ready for the long quarantine period and the lockdown. But strange as it is, from the 21st of March, 2020, till today, the 11th of May, 2020, the majority of my reading time was spent reading The New Community Bible. I was falling head over heels in love with the Bible. I loved the book introductions, the written calligraphy, the amazing stories of the patriarchs, the pictures, the psalms, the action, the divine revelations, the Gospels, the comparative analysis of different scriptures in the notes section, et al. I was being enriched by the glorious love story of God for human beings. I was addicted to the Bible like never before.
It was then during one of the masses of Cardinal Oswald Gracias before Easter that he pointed to the camera during his sermon, and it looked like he was pointing his finger right at me. He was asking me what could I do to help in the ministry of God after we survive COVID-19. And my ‘reply’ seemed to come instantaneously, without me even realizing what I was saying: I would study the Bible, theology, and philosophy and then evangelize. It just came. It just happened. I didn’t realize what I was doing.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true. —Revelations 21:5
I promised myself that I would do this, that this would come to pass, and this morning at 6:30 a.m., I finished reading the Bible. I, who have thousands of books to choose from, chose to read a 2,265-page book for a major period of the COVID-19 lockdown. The seed sown in teenage years sprouted a shoot in 2017 through Dirda’s book and now, because of COVID-19, it has become a small humble tree. I was an existentialist, still am in a way, but not totally. Something has happened, and I know that it is good.
What am I going to do now? Read a lot, write a lot, study a lot, and teach a lot – these things I have been doing all my life. But with my hand on my heart, I can say, that one must read the entire Bible from start to finish at least once in one’s life.
Today, I have mentioned in this essay why I read the Bible in two months and how it all came to pass. In another essay, I hope to write about how I managed to stay focused and read the Bible without getting distracted. I’ll mention some of my favorite books and verses. Maybe it is the beginning of my evangelization process. Maybe it isn’t. Whatever it is, it is good: The greatest love story I have ever read. I shall move on as the good Lord shall guide me.
How do I feel after reading the entire Bible? I feel fulfilled as I’ve never felt in my whole life. The year 2020 was the year of COVID-19, a year not over yet, the disease not done with us yet. But we have faith and faith in the Word of God can move mountains, and even move the stony heart of an existentialist.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. —Ezekiel 36:26
If I chronicle my story about how I read the Bible then I’ll surely let you know. It’s a very good book in itself and for believers in God, your belief is incomplete without a thorough reading of the Bible. As I have mentioned before, I will type in another blog post the tips about how to read the Bible without getting distracted. These tips will be highly personal ones that I have adopted all my life to read books. I have spent the major part of my thirty-one years of life reading books and following a life dedicated to books, writing, publishing, and teaching. This is the first time I’ve been moved by the Spirit within me to do something I know very little about. COVID-19 continues to take lives. We are still in lockdown. Churches are not open and people are dying. But we can’t lose hope, faith, and trust. I hope to type a new essay for you soon.
If you are interested in more book reviews, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, then you can visit my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in buying my books then you can visit my website fizapathanpublishing.us or fizapathan.com. Happy reading to you always!
Copyright©2020 Fiza Pathan