We continue this week with a short selection from the book of Fr Robert Hughes Benson, "The Friendship of Christ"
The soul begins then in this stage to learn her own ignorance and her own sin, and to learn her amazing self-centredness and complacency. Up to now she has thought to possess Christ, to hold Him as a lover and a friend, to grasp Him and to keep Him. Her previous mistakes came from this very thing; now she has to learn that not only must she relinquish all that is not Christ, but she must relinquish Christ -- leave, that is to say, her energetic hold on Him, and be content, instead, to be altogether held and supported by Him. So long as she has a shred of self left she will seek to make the friendship mutual, to give, at least, a fraction of what she receives. Now she faces the fact that Christ must do all, that she can do nothing without Him, that she has no power at all except what He gives her. What has been wrong with her up to now, she begins to see, is not so much that she has done or not done this or that, but simply that she has been herself all along, that she has sought to possess, not to be possessed . . . that that self has been hateful because it has not been altogether lost in Christ. She has been endeavouring to cure the symptoms of her disease, but she has not touched the disease with one finger. She sees for the first time that there is no good in herself apart from Christ; that He must be all, and she nothing.
Now if a soul has come so far as this, it is extremely rare that sheer pride should be her ruin. The very knowledge of herself that she has gained is an effectual cure of any further real complacency; for she has seen plainly, at any rate for the time being, how utterly worthless she is. Yet there are other dangers that face her, and of these one at least may be pride under the very subtle disguise of extravagant humility. "Since I am so worthless," she may be tempted to say, "I had better never again attempt those high heights and those aspirations after friendship with my God. Let me give up, once and for all, my dreams of perfection, and my hopes of actual union with my Lord. I must sink back again to the common level, content if I can keep myself just tolerable in His sight. I must take my place again in the ordinary paths, and no longer seek an intimacy with Christ of which I am evidently unworthy."
Or her self-knowledge may take the form of despair; and it is a burden which before now has broken down even the mental faculties themselves. "I have forfeited," cries a soul such as this -- a soul which has lost the excuse of pride, but yet clings to its substance -- "I have forfeited the Friendship of Christ once and for all. It is impossible that I who have tasted of the heaveniy gift should be renewed again unto repentance. He chose me, and I failed Him. He loved me, and I have loved myself only. Therefore let me go far off from His Presence. . . . Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
And yet, if the soul only knew it, now is the very moment to which all the preceding stages have led.