Theotimus, contemplation is no other thing than a loving, simple and permanent attention of the spirit to divine things; which you may easily understand by comparing meditation with it.
Little bees are called nymphs or schadons until they make honey, and then they are called bees: so prayer is named Meditation until it has produced the honey of devotion, and then it is converted into Contemplation. For as the bees fly through their meadows, settling here and there and gathering honey, which having heaped together, they work in it for the pleasure they take in its sweetness, so we meditate to gather the love of God, but having gathered it we contemplate God, and are attentive to his goodness, by reason of the sweetness which love makes us find in it. The desire we have to obtain divine love makes us meditate, but love obtained makes us contemplate; for by love we find so agreeable a sweetness in the thing beloved, that we can never satiate our spirits in seeing and considering it.
Behold, Theotimus, how the queen of Saba, -- regarding the proofs of Solomon's wisdom in his answers, in the beauty of his house, in the magnificence of his table, in his servants' lodgings, in the order that his courtiers kept while executing their charges, in their apparel and behaviour, in the multitude of holocausts which were offered in the Temple, -- was taken with an ardent love, which changed her meditation into contemplation, in which, being rapt out of herself, she uttered divers words of extreme satisfaction. The sight of so many wonders begot in her heart an exceeding love, and that love enkindled a new desire, to see still more and enjoy the presence of him whose they were; whence she cried: Blessed are thy servants who stand before thee always, and hear thy wisdom. In like manner we sometimes begin to eat to get an appetite, but our appetite being excited, we continue eating to content it. And in the beginning we consider the goodness of God to excite our will to love him, but love being formed in our hearts, we consider the same goodness to content our love, which cannot be satiated in seeing continually what it loves. In conclusion, Meditation is the mother, and Contemplation the daughter of love, and for this reason I called Contemplation a loving attention, for children are named after their fathers, and not fathers after their children.
It is true, Theotimus, that as Joseph of old was the crown and glory of his father, greatly increased his honours and contentment, and made him young in his old age, so contemplation crowns its father which is love, perfects him, and gives him the crown of excellence; for love having excited in us contemplative attention, that attention breeds reciprocally a greater and more fervent love, which at last is crowned with perfection when it enjoys what it loves. Love makes us take pleasure in the sight of our well-beloved, and the sight of our well-beloved makes us take pleasure in his divine love, so that by this mutual movement, from love to sight, and from sight to love, as love renders the beauty of the thing beloved more beautiful, so the sight of it makes love more loving and delightful. Love by an imperceptible power makes the beauty which we love appear more fair, and sight likewise refines love, to make it find beauty more amiable. Love urges the eyes continually to behold the beloved beauty more attentively, and sight forces the heart to love it ever more ardently.