Father Benson explains: “The third stage of Illumination, corresponding with that of the Purgative Way, deals with those actual relations between Christ and the soul that are involved in the Divine Friendship. Now we saw that the last step of the Purgative Way was that abandonment of self into Christ’s arms that is only possible when the soul has no longer any self-reliance. The corresponding step of the Illuminative Way is therefore the accession of light which the soul receives as to the abiding Presence of Christ within her.”
“It is at this point, therefore, that the Divine Friendship becomes the object of actual intelligence and contemplation. It is henceforth not only enjoyed, but in a certain degree consciously perceived and understood. This is nothing else than Ordinary Contemplation.”
“It consists in a consciousness of God so effective and so continuous that God is never wholly absent from the thoughts, at least subconsciously. . . . Life is changed by it: all relations are altered by it; Christ begins to be indeed the Light that irradiates every object of the soul’s attention: He becomes the background, or the medium, by whose help all things are seen. Ordinary Contemplation, then, is the fixing of this state by effort as well as by grace.”
“Until the soul has been purged, and until, further, it has been illuminated as to both exterior and interior things, the consciousness of Christ’s interior Presence cannot be a continuous state. But when these processes have taken place, when Christ, that is, has trained His new friend in the duties and rewards of the Divine Companionship, Ordinary Contemplation is, if we may say so, the attention that He expects from her. Sin, of course, in this state, becomes subjectively, far more grave. . . . But, on the other hand, virtue is far easier, since it is difficult for any soul to sin very outrageously so long as she feels the pressure of Christ’s hand in hers.”
Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).