Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 2:1-12

Mat 2:1  When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem,
Mat 2:2  Saying: Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him.

2:1a.  When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda.  It is better to read here in the Greek in Bethlehem-Juda. Juda means the tribe of Judah, to which, after the schism of the ten tribes, who made a king of their own, Jeroboam, the tribe of Benjamin adhered. And these two formed the kingdom of Judah. S. Matthew adds the word Judah to distinguish the town from another Bethlehem, in the tribe of Zebulon, in Galilee. (See Joshua 19:15) So S. Jerome.

2:1b.  Herod. This was Herod I., the son of Antipater, surnamed the Great, and of Ascalon, and an Idumæan by race, whom the Roman Senate, on the recommendation of Antony, created the first king of Judæa, after its conquest. (See Josephus, lib. 14, Ant. c. 18.)

Matthew makes mention of Herod, to intimate that the sceptre was now transferred from Judah to an alien, for such was Herod, and therefore that Messiah or Christ was now come. For the patriarch Jacob had foretold that this should be the sign of His advent. (Gen 49:10.) So S. Chrysostom, and Theophylact. Herod, being aware of this prophecy, applied the oracle to himself in order to strengthen his kingdom. He wished to be accounted the Messiah; and therefore he built a most magnificent temple for the Jews, and dedicated it on the anniversary of the day when he commenced his reign. (See Josephus, lib. 15, Ant. c. 14, and lib. 20, c. 8.)

Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, was the son of this Herod the Great. He also it was who clothed our Lord in His Passion with a white robe, and mocked Him. And the grandson of Herod the Great, by his son Aristobulus, was Herod Agrippa, who killed James the brother of John, and who was smitten by an angel and died. And the son of this Agrippa was Herod Agrippa the younger, before whom Paul the prisoner pleaded. (Acts 25:23, &C.)

Salianus, Scaliger, and others, think that Christ was born in the thirty-sixth, or last year but one, of Herod’s reign. For he reigned thirty-six years. (See on ver. 16.) But Baronius thinks that Christ was born in the twentieth year of Herod, Abul. in the thirtieth, Bede in the thirty-first, Eusebius in the thirty-second, Sulpitius Severus in the thirty-third, Torinellus in the thirty-fourth, and others give other dates, so that in a matter of such uncertainty nothing can be exactly determined.

2: c-2:2a.  Behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying: Where is he that is born king of the Jews? The Greek term for wise men is Magi, a common word among the Persians, whence the Persian translation of S. Matthew has here Magusan, Magi, or wise men, or astrologers, or philosophers. The word seems to be derived from the Hebrew as Genebrard, on Ps. i., thinks, from the root haga to meditate, whence Magim, those who meditate. “For meditation is the key of wisdom,” as Ptolemy says in the procemium of Almagestus. Hence those who are given to meditation either are, or else become, wise. The Chaldees, following the Hebrews, were accustomed to call their philosophers Magi, according to S. Jerome in Dan. c. 2. Hence the Arabians, Syrians, Persians, Ethiopians, and other Orientals, whose languages are either derived from, or akin to Hebrew, call their wise men and astrologers, Magi, according to Pliny, lib. 25. C. 2, and Tertull., contra Judæos.

Came to Jerusalem. 1. Because they thought that the King of the Jews must be sought for in the royal city; so S. Leo says. 2. Because the chief priests, and scribes, and doctors of the law, were at Jerusalem, who, from the prophetic oracles, would be likely to know where and when Christ should be born, as in fact they did inform the wise men that He should be born at Bethlehem. For prudently the Magi, although they had the star, wished to consult also the living interpreters of God’s will. And thus it was that the star for a time withdrew itself, as though to compel the wise men to approach the Scribes. For it is God’s will that men should be taught by men, and by doctors appointed by Himself, the way of salvation.

From the east, Gr. α̉πό α̉νατολών, i.e., from eastern parts, as though these Magi came from several regions or provinces of the east.

You ask from what country the Magi came?

1. Clemens Alex., S. Chrysostom, Cyril Alex., and S. Leo, cited by Baronius, think that they came from Persia. But the distance would seem too great. For Persia is 300 leagues from Judæa, which the Magi would scarcely traverse in thirteen days. It is true that with dromedaries, which can travel forty leagues in a day, the journey might be accomplished post-haste in that time; but those kings, with their luxuries and their litters, were not travellers post-haste, and could not perform the distance in any such time. And the more common opinion of the Fathers and Doctors is that the Magi came to Bethlehem on the thirteenth day from the first appearance of the star and the birth of Christ, and there adored Him, and that this is the force of the word lo! Also because they found Christ still remaining with His parents, among strangers at Bethlehem, and they, a little after, returned with Christ to their own city, Nazareth. This is the opinion of S. Augustine, Serm. I, 2, 3, de Epiphan., and S. Leo, de eadem. Whence also the Church commemorates this mystery on the thirteenth day after Christmas.

2. Others with more probability think that the Magi were Chaldæans, both because the Chaldæans were addicted to astrology; and these Magi recognized Christ by the teaching of a star, and because they themselves were followers of Abraham, who was called by God out of Chaldæa into Judæa. So think S. Jerome, Chalcidius the Platonic, and Jansenius.

3. Abul. (in Numb. c. 24), and the Jesuit Sebast. Barradi, think that the Magi were Mesopotamians, because Balaam, who predicted this star was from thence.

4. Navarrus (Tractat. de Orat. c. 21) asserts that he received from Jerome Osorius, Bishop of Algarbii, and a celebrated writer, that it is found in the very ancient records of Calecut, that the king of Calecut was one of the Magi, or certainly a chief associate (socium) of the three wise men. It is credible that this may have afterwards been the case when the Magi preached with S. Thomas the Apostle, in that place. See Osorius, lib. I, on the actions of Emmanuel, king of Portugal, where he asserts from Indian traditions that the king of Cranganore, which is not very far from Calecut, was one of the Magi: for that the two other Magi, the Persian, and the Caramanian, as they were hastening to Christ with the star for their guide, associated with themselves this Indian king; and that hence he was called Chereperimale, or one of three. He adds that he was nearly black, and like an Ethiopian. Maffei has a similar account, lib. 2, Hist. Ind., where he calls this prince Pirimal, and asserts that he was king of Calanum, and that the star was his guide to Christ by the admonition of the Indian Sibyl.

5. And most probably, these Magi were eastern Arabians. Whence Tacitus (lib. 5, Histor.) says that Judæa was bounded by Arabia on the east.

This is proved, 1. Because it was the opinion of S. Justin, Tertullian, Cyprian, Epiphanius, and others, whom Baronius cites. 2. Because this answers best to the prophecy of Isaiah, who foretells (Isa 60:6) that the Sabeans, Midian, and Ephah, who are all Arabians, should come to Christ with presents. And it would appear that the Church has thus understood Isaiah’s prophecy, since she so frequently recites it in the office for the Epiphany. This is likewise plainly in accordance with the Psalmist: “The kings of Tharsis and of the islands shall offer presents, the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.” (Ps 72:10.) 3. Because Arabia is nearer to Judæa than Chaldæa, India, Persia, &c. 4. Because the Queen of Sheba was a type of these kings. And she came with similar presents from Arabia to Solomon, a type of Christ. And although this queen be said to have come from Ethiopia, yet this Ethiopia was not Abyssinia, but a part of Arabia. For she came from eastern, not western Ethiopia, as S. Anselm says. Arabia includes the Red Sea and the adjacent regions, especially the neighbouring part of eastern Ethiopia. So the Madianites are called Ethiopians because of their black, or dark, colour. Whence Moses wife is called an Ethiopian woman. (Num 12:1) Also the Red Sea is called the Arabian, not the Ethiopian Gulf, because Arabia stretches itself even beyond it. Hence again it is probable that one or more of the Magi were black, both because this is the universal opinion, as painters thus depict the Adoration of the Wise Men, and because the Queen of Sheba is said to come from Ethiopia: “Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down.” (Psa 72:9, Vulg.) And the Magi are called “kings of Tharsis, i.e., of the Red Sea.” 5. It is plain, from the gifts which the Magi offered to Christ: Arabia abounds in gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This is why it is called Felix, the Happy. “Nowhere is frankincense,” says Pliny, “except in Arabia.” And Virgil, “The frankincense tree belongs to the Sabeans alone;” and (2 Geor.), “India sends ivory, the unwarlike Sabeans their frankincense.” In this Arabia there is also abundance of myrrh and spices, so that they use none other than such wood for kindling fires. (Pliny, lib. 12, C. 17.) In the same country there is so great a quantity of gold that their furniture is resplendent with it; and in Saba of Ethiopia even the prisoners’ chains are made of it. (See Mela, lib. 3, c. 10.) 6. Because the prophecy of Balaam, concerning the star of these wise men, was uttered in the land of Moab, which was a part of Arabia. See S. Jerome, in Locis Hebraicis. See also Pineda, lib. 5, de rebus Salomonis, who shows that the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon, and the three Magi to Christ, from Saba, in Arabia Felix, a district inhabited by the Homeritae, amongst whom the Christian religion afterwards marvellously flourished under Ely Gaan, who received it from the kings, his ancestors, who were probably these Magi.

The common opinion of the faithful is that these Magi were kings, that is, petty kings, or princes. And this belief, let Calvin laugh as he may, is fully handed down by SS. Cyprian, Basil, Chrysostom, Jerome, Hilary, by Tertullian, Isidore, Bede, Idacius, who are all cited by Maldonatus and Baronius. S. Matthew, however, does not call them kings, but Magi, because it was the part of these last to recognize Christ by the star. Hence also in Ps. lxxi., they are called “kings of Tharsis,” and “kings of the Arabians and of Saba.” Again, that they were three in number, from the three species of gifts which they offered—gold, frankincense, and myrrh,—is taught by Augustine, Serm. 29 & 33, de Tempore. The pious tradition of the faithful favours the same opinion. And the office of the Church for the Epiphany implies it.

The author of the imperfect work upon S. Matthew in S. Chrysostom asserts that after the resurrection of Christ, S. Thomas the Apostle came to the country of these Magi, and baptized them, and associated them with him in preaching the Gospel.

Venerable Bede, to whom we may well give credit, in his Collectanea, not far from the beginning, names and describes them as follows:—The first is said to have been called Melchior, an old man, grey-headed, with flowing beard and locks; he presented gold to the Lord the King. The second was Gaspar, young, beardless, and ruddy; he with frankincense, as an oblation worthy of God, honoured God. The third was Fuscus: he had a full beard, and by means of myrrh signified that the Son of Man should die.

Lastly, some say that these Magi, as they preached Christ, were slain by the idolaters, and gained the crown of martyrdom; and offered themselves, as it were, an holocaust of gold and frankincense and myrrh to Christ. Amongst these, L. Dexter, in his Chronicle, under A.D. 70, says: “In Arabia Felix, in the city of Sessania, took place the martyrdom of the three Royal Magi, Gaspar, Balthazar, Melchior.” From Sessania their sacred remains were translated to Constantinople, from thence to Milan, and from Milan to Cologne, where they still remain, and are greatly venerated, and where I myself have often honoured them.

Where is he that is born king of the Jews? Observe here the faith and greatness of soul of the Magi, who in a royal city seek another King rather than the reigning monarch; nor fear the wrath and power of Herod, because they trusted in God.

The King of the Jews, put antonomastically for Messiah, or Christ. Wherefore when Herod heard this question, he gathered the Scribes together, and asked them where Christ should be born? For the star was the index of Christ; whence it is subjoined, “For we have seen His star.” This is what is meant—”The King of the Jews, yea, of heaven, has been born; for a star of the heavens has made Him known to us. It has called us: it has invited all to visit Him, to honour and adore Him. For in this new star which has been put forth in heaven, heaven manifests her admiration of so great a King, even the Word incarnate.” When Christ is born, the heaven is astonished, the angels are amazed, and, wondering at the love of God for man, they sing with jubilation, “Glory to God in the highest,” that so they may arouse senseless man to wonder at and venerate so great condescension. So from a like cause, at the passion of Christ, the sun and the moon were darkened, the earth quaked, rocks were rent, graves were opened, to show that their God was dying, and to manifest their sympathy. This is what Haggai foretold (Hag 2:7)—”Yet a little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth: and the desire of all nations shall come.” At this also Habakkuk was amazed when he said (Hab 3:2), “I considered thy works, and was afraid. In the midst of the two living creatures thou shalt be known” (LXX)—that is to say, in the manger, by the shepherds and the Magi. Wherefore Francis Mayro, in a sermon on the Nativity, teaches that the incarnation of the Word was a greater and more stupendous work of God than the creation of the world. For man is more distant from God than he is from nothing. For man is finite, God is infinite, and, by the incarnation, God is united to man; but, in creation, man is united to nothing—that is, to a body created out of nothing.

Lastly, from this star, that impostor who, a little after Christ, under the Emperor Adrian, feigned himself to be Messiah, gave himself a name. He excited the Jews to rebel against the Romans, and became their leader, calling himself Barchochebas, i.e., the Son of the Star, saying “that he, for their salvation, had glided down from heaven, as a great star, to bring the help of light to diseased mortals, who were condemned to long darkness.” Thus Eusebius, Hist. 4. 6. But this star soon set, for he and all his followers were cut off by the Romans.

Appropriately did a star lead the three royal Magi to Christ, the King of kings, for a star has the appearance of a kingly crown, with its resplendent rays; and therefore a star is an emblem of a king and a kingdom. Whence God promises to Abraham (Gen 15:5), saying, “Look up to heaven, and number the stars, if thou canst. And he said to him: so shall thy seed be.” Here, amongst other things, He designated the kings of Israel and Judah, who should spring from Abraham, but especially Christ the King. Hence, unfolding the same thing, God says to Abraham explicitly, “Kings shall come out of thee.” (Gen 17:6.) Wherefore S. Fulgentius (Serm. on the Epiph. 5) says—”Who is that King of the Jews? At once poor and rich, lowly and exalted, who is carried as a babe, and worshipped as a God: a babe in a manger, incomprehensible in heaven, sordid in rags, priceless among the stars.”

Hence has been taken that ancient military order of the kings and princes of France, who bore the figure of a star on their vestments, with this motto—”The stars show the way to the kings.” This order was afterwards changed, by Louis XI. of France, into the Order of S. Michael. The Order of the Star was first instituted by Robert of France, about A.D. 1022 (in honour of the Blessed Virgin, to whom that monarch was greatly devoted), because she is the very Star of the sea, imploring that she, like a guiding-star, might be the leader of his kingdom, and especially of the nobles. Wherefore he elected thirty knights of the chief nobility of France to be of this Order, and gave to each a golden collar, with a star pendant on the breast. (See the “Annals of Paris,” by Jacob Broneius.)

2:2b For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him.  —namely, the star of the King of the Jews, i.e., Christ, or the Messiah, newly born. From hence it would appear that this star extended its rays with greater length and brightness in the direction of Judæa, in the same manner that comets extend their tails towards such and such a country; so that the Magi might understand that they were to go in the direction of Judæa, where Messiah was to be born. This seems to be the force of the word for in this place. Wisely does S. Gregory say (Hom. 10)—”All the elements testified that their Creator was come. The heavens acknowledged Him to be God, and so they sent the star. The sea knew Him, for it suffered Him to walk upon it. The earth knew Him, for, when He died, it trembled. The sun knew Him, for he hid his rays. The rocks and stones knew Him, for they were rent asunder. Hell knew Him, for it gave up the dead that were in it. And yet Him, whom all the senseless elements felt to be the Lord, the hearts of the unbelieving Jews even yet acknowledge not by any means to be God, and, harder than the flint-stones, they will not be broken by repentance.”

You will ask how the Magi, when they saw the star, knew by it that Christ was born?

In the first place, the Priscillianists, as S. Gregory (Hom. 10) testifies, said that this star was the Fate of Christ; that as fate determines things future, so this star signified and determined Christ. But this opinion S. Gregory rightly refutes, saying, “It was not the Child who hasted to the star, but the star to the Child. So may it be said, that the star was not the fate of the Child, but the fate of the star was the Child who appeared.” S. Augustine also (lib. 5, de Civitat. Dei, c. 1, &c.) confutes the astrologers, who say that the stars assign their fates to every one.

At this point Lapide engages in a refutation of astrology which I’ve chosen not to reproduce due to the length of this post.

A second opinion is that of the Imperfect Author. This star, he says, was distinguished by the figure of a boy bearing a cross, because the light of faith manifested the Incarnation and Cross of Christ. But this is said without foundation. It is not related in any history, except that of the Sethiani, of whom presently.

I say, therefore, that the Magi knew Christ was born by the token of a star. 1. Because Balaam had prophesied of it (Num 24:17), “A Star shall rise out of Jacob.” But the Magi were the posterity, or successors of Balaam. The meaning therefore of “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star,” is, we seek Him whom we all have hitherto expected to be designated by a star; and now, since we have seen the star, we believe that He has been born. There is, moreover, this oracle of the Erythræan Sibyl extant (lib. 8, Sibyl. orac.): “The Magi worshipped the Star, recent and divine; and when they followed the commands of God, an infant was shown to them in a manger.”

That the Magi knew that this star was the harbinger of Christ from Balaam and the Sibyl, is the opinion of S. Basil, S. Jerome, Origen, S. Leo, Eusebius, Prosper, S. Cyprian, Procopius, and others, whom I have cited on Num 24:17. Whence Suetonius, in Vespas., and Cicero, lib. 2, de Divinat., and Orosius, lib. 6, c. 6, say that it was then a general belief that a King would come forth from Judæa who would have universal dominion. This the heathen falsely applied to Vespasian. Chalcidius, who was a heathen and Platonic philosopher, commenting upon the Timæus of Plato, thus writes: “There is another very sacred and venerable history,” meaning the Gospel of S. Matthew, “which tells of the rising of a certain star, not one denouncing disease and death, but declaring the descent of a God to be worshipped, for the sake of converse with man and mortal concerns. When certain wise Chaldæans, in a journey by night, had seen this star, and had well considered the circumstance, they are said to have searched for the God newly born, and, when they had found the august Child, they worshipped Him, and presented gifts suitable for so great a Deity.” The author of the Imperfect Homily, upon this passage of S. Matthew, adds that the successors of Balaam, after his prophecy concerning the star, deputed some persons, in each generation, to watch the heavens, who might observe the rising of this star, on the mountain which is called Victorialis; and at length, when these Magi were watching for its appearance, “it came,” he says, “upon that mountain Victorialis, descending, as it were, in the form of a little child, and upon him the likeness of a cross. And it spoke with them and taught them, and told them to go into Judæa. And as they went, the star went before them for the space of two years. And they wanted neither food nor drink. But the rest of all the things which were done by them is compendiously related in the Gospel.” These things, however, are of doubtful credit, and are taken from the apocryphal books of the Sethiani, as the writer acknowledges.

2. More probably, they knew by a divine instinct and revelation; for the Magi were endowed with a hidden celestial afflatus. “This they heard,” says S. Augustine (Serm. 2 de Epiph.), “telling them in the language of heaven, as it were, that Christ was born in Judaea. Thus they followed the star on to Bethlehem and the cradle of Christ.” For, as S. Leo says (Serm. 4 de Epiph.), “God, who manifested the sign of the star, gave understanding to those who beheld it: for He made it to be understood and inquired after, and, being sought after, He presented Himself to be found.”

The brightness and majesty of the star were so great that the Magi understood that something divine was portended, even that God, as the Holy Spirit suggested to them, had become incarnate.

In fine, the Divine countenance of the Child Christ shed forth such a ray of heavenly light as illuminated the eyes, but still more the minds, of the Magi, so that they perceived that that Infant was not a mere man, but true God; for, as S. Jerome says, on the ninth chapter of Matthew, “The splendour and the majesty of the hidden Divinity, which shone even in His human face, were able at the first glance to attract those who beheld Him.”

You will ask, secondly, of what kind, and how great was this star? Was it of the same nature as the rest of the stars, or was it peculiar and diverse from others? First, the writer concerning the marvels of Scripture (lib. 3. c. 40, as extant in tom. 3 of S. Augustine’s Works), thinks that this star was the Holy Ghost, who, like unto a dove, descended upon Christ, and, by means of a star, guided the Magi. 2. Origen, Theophylact, S. Chrysostom, and Maldonatus think that this star was an angel, because, indeed, an angel was the mover, and, as it were, the charioteer of the star. 3. Others think that it was a real and new star, similar to the one which appeared in the Constellation of Cassiopeia, A.D. 1572. 4. Others think that it was a comet. But I reply that it was a new and unknown star, entirely different from other stars, and superior to them in nine prerogatives, and, as one may say, portents. It was formed by the angels for this purpose, that it might lead the Magi to admire it, that they might feel assured that it presaged something new and divine.

1. This star surpassed all others as to its creation or production. For they were produced in the fourth day of the Creation, but this was produced upon the very night of Christ’s nativity. It was therefore a new star, and was never seen either before or after this time. So S. Augustine, lib. 2, contra Faustum, c. 5.

2. In its material: for in other stars this is celestial, but in this it was aerial. For the angels framed it of condensed air, and infused brightness into it.

3. In place: for other stars are in the firmament; this was in the atmosphere. It went before the Magi in their journey from Arabia to Judæa.

4. In motion: other stars move in circles; but this went straight forward. For it moved in a direct line from east to west.

5. In time: other stars only shine by night; for the sun’s light obscures them during the day. But this was as bright by day, during the shining of the sun, as it was by night.

6. In duration: for other stars always shine; this was temporary, for it continued only during the period of the wise men’s journey, and afterwards vanished.

7. In size: for the other stars are greater than the earth and the moon, but this was less than either. This, however, appeared greater because it was nearer the earth; just as the moon appears larger than the fixed stars, because it is nearer to us, although it is in reality far less.

8. In being inconstant: for this star sometimes hid itself, as at Jerusalem; at other times it was visible, and a guide of their journey. ‘When the Magi went forward, it went forward; when they rested, it rested. At length it stood over the house where the Child was. And then, as though its work were accomplished in Christ’s Epiphany, it vanished. The other stars have no such property.

9. In splendour: in which it surpassed all the other stars. Whence S. Ignatius, who lived a little after Christ, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, writes thus: “The star shone so as to surpass in brightness all that were before it. For its light was indescribable; and struck with amazement all who beheld it. For all the rest of the stars, together with the sun and moon, were a kind of chorus of audience for that star, for it surpassed them all in splendour.” Prudentius in his hymn for the Epiphany says, “That star which surpasses the sun’s orb in beauty and radiance.” S. Chrysostom says the same thing. Whence S. Leo (Serm. 1 de Epiph.) says, “A new star appeared in the eastern parts to the three Magi. It was brighter and more beautiful than all the other stars. It attracted to it the eye and the mind of those who beheld it, so that it was immediately perceived that this strange sight was not without a purpose.”

This star was a new meteor formed by the angels from the atmosphere, and filled with an immense light, and moved by an angel, like the pillar of fire and cloud, which guided the Hebrews through the desert to the promised land. So S. Chrysostom, Fulgentius, Basil, and others. Indeed, that pillar was a type of this star. Truly does S. Chrysostom say (Hom. 16 ex veriis in Matth. loc.) “Thou, O star, by thy advent calledst the Magi from the east, and sentest them back to preach the gospel in their own land.”

Furthermore, in the books passing under the name of Seth, the son of Adam, there are various things related of the Magi, and of the star in the figure of a child carrying a cross, &c., which seem to have been fabricated by the Sethianist heretics. (See Epiphanius, Hæres. 26 & 39.)

Also Gregory of Tours, says Haymo, relates, that this star fell into a well, where it may be even now seen, but only by virgins; and that once three men came to behold it, and that only one of them, who was a virgin, could see it. But such things, says S. Anselm, are fables and trifles.

Allegorically, Christ is “the bright and morning star.” (Rev 22:16.) Whence S. Ambrose saith, “Christ is the star: for a Star shall rise out of Jacob, and a man come forth of Israel.” (Vulg.) In fine, where Christ is, there is the star. For He is the bright and morning star: therefore doth He make Himself known by His own light.

Again, the star of the sea, that is, of this storm-tossed world, who shows us thereby the way, and goes before us to the harbour of safety, is the Blessed Virgin, whence her name Mary. The Hebrew Mariam means teacher, or mistress, or guide of the sea. “Behold the star, invoke Mary,” says S. Bernard. Hence, also, the Church invokes her, saying, “Hail, star of the sea, bounteous Mother of God.”

Tropologically, the star is, 1. The faith of a believer. 2. Prudence. 3. Precepts. 4. Evangelical counsels, especially obedience to a superior. 5. Holy inspirations infused into the mind by God, whereby He calls the soul to some action, in a more perfect state, as, for example, virginity, or martyrdom. God, let us say, calls thee to sanctity and heroic virtue, to a state of perfection; He shows thee a star to go before thee on the road to heaven. Gaze then upon it, follow it, lest this star of a divine vocation, being seen of thee, be despised, and in the day of judgment accuse and condemn thee before God. “There is nothing, therefore, too difficult for the humble,” says S. Leo (Serm. 5 de Epiph.), “nothing too rugged for the meek, and all things can be accomplished, when grace furnishes her assistance, and obedience lightens the command.”

Hear S. Gregory (Hom. 39 in Evang.): “Behold God calls us by Himself, by the angels, by fathers, by prophets, by apostles, by pastors. He calls us also by our own selves, by miracles, very often by chastisements. He calls us by worldly prosperity, and sometimes by adversity. Let no one despise the call, lest the time should ever come, when they will wish to answer and not be able.”

Anagogically, doctors and whoever instruct many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. (Dan_12:3; and Rev_2:28.) Wherefore S. Leo says, “Whosoever shall live a godly life in the Church, and shall seek those things which are above, not which are upon the earth, is like a heavenly luminary. And whilst he himself preserves the brightness of a holy conversation, he, like a star, shows to many the way of the Lord. In such a course ye all ought, well-beloved, to profit one another, that in the kingdom of God—at which we arrive by means of a right faith and good works—ye may shine as the children of the light.”

Lastly, the star invites and calls us to heaven, that, by means of a heavenly life, we may come to the most blessed company of the angels and all the heavenly citizens.

For we have seen his star in the East.  Some writers refer the words, in the east to we have seen. That is, “We, being in the east, saw the star in the west, shining over Judæa;” so that the Magi knew whither to wend their way. Similarly, the pole-star shows the way to sailors. Others, with more probability, refer in the east to the word star—i.e., “we, in the east, saw the star there with us in the east.” But both opinions are tenable. For, first, this star seems to have appeared over Judæa to signify that the King of the Jews was born there, and must there be sought. Hence, in Num 24:17, for “shall rise” the Hebrew has darach—i.e., “hath proceeded.” “A star proceedeth out of Jacob.”

You will ask, Did the star remain stationary in the east, or was it a constant attendant upon the Magi in their journey to Judæa? Jansen, Cajetan, and others think that it remained stationary. They attempt to prove this: 1. Because the Magi say, “we have seen His star in the east.” And when they departed from Jerusalem, S. Matthew says, “And lo, the star which they had seen in the east.” 2. Because Herod, and the Jews, and the rest did not, as it would seem, behold the star. For had they done so, some surely would have followed it, and have come with the Magi to Christ. 3. Because the Magi knew from Balaam’s prophecy that the star portended that the King of the Jews was now born. And as they knew the way to Judæa, they did not require the star to guide them.

On the other hand, SS. Chrysostom and Leo, Theophylact, S. Thomas, Lyra, Suarez, Maldonatus, and Chrysologus (Serm. 156) are of opinion that the star did accompany the Magi as far as Judæa. As Chrysologus says (loc. cit.), “When they walked, the star went on; when they sat down, it stayed; when they slept, it kept vigil over them.” This is the common opinion of believers; whence the Church sings in her hymn, “The Magi went on following the star which they had seen, which went before them.”

So, therefore, when the Magi say, We have seen has star in the east, they are speaking only of their beginning to see the star. We have seen, meaning “We first saw His star when we were in the east; and, being called by the sight of it, we are come, with that star for our guide, having followed it as it went before us until we came to Jerusalem.” And because the star disappeared at Jerusalem, they then went to Herod and the Scribes, and asked them where Christ was born.

Both opinions are probable and worthy of examination, and may perhaps be reconciled one with the other, by supposing that the star which shone in the east was of exceeding brightness, as S. Ignatius testifies, at its first appearance, when it attracted the eyes of the Magi, and to which they referred when they said “we have seen His star in the east;” but that afterwards, when it went with them in their journey, it was covered with a cloud, and shone less brightly, so that it was visible to scarcely any save the Magi; lest if other men had seen it in its utmost brilliancy, and had accompanied them in a great band to Jerusalem, they might have stirred up Herod and the Jews against Christ to destroy Him. For it was plainly fitting that the star which called forth the Magi should show them the way to Christ, who was afar off and hidden. In like manner, the pillar of fire and cloud which was the leader of the camp of the Hebrews shone before them like fire by night, but by day was covered with a cloud, as I have shown in my commentary on Ex 13 and Num 9.

But that some others besides the Magi saw the star is probable. For since the star was a large one, bright and visible to them, why not to others? For God willed Christ to be made known to all the world. Still, few or none followed the star with the Magi, both because they understood not the mystery, and because they were hindered by worldly cares. Hence we learn how necessary is powerful and efficacious grace for seeking Christ. Of this He speaks (S. John 6:44): “No man can come unto me, except my Father draw him.” Thus in the passion of Christ, the eclipse of the sun was seen at Athens by S. Dionysius, the Areopagite; and this was why he was converted by S. Paul when he learnt from him the cause of the eclipse, because, namely, it was at that very day and hour that Christ was crucified.

Suarez adds, that the star only shone by day in places near the Magi, but was at a loftier elevation by night, and was then less conspicuous. So says Nicephorus, H. E. 1. 13.

Lastly, the Magi were appropriately called by a star, because they were astronomers. Hence they knew that this star was not a common one, but a prodigy, and portended some divine event. Thus they understood that the Maker and Lord of the stars, to whom all the stars are obedient, was born.

Hence the Church celebrates with so great solemnity the Feast of the Epiphany, in which the Magi were called to adore Christ, because in them and by them was begun the calling and salvation of the Gentiles. Wherefore S. Leo (Serm. 2 de Epiph.) says—”Let us, brethren beloved, recognize in the Magi, who worshipped Christ, the first-fruits of our vocation and faith, and with exulting minds let us celebrate the beginnings of blessed hope. From this time forth we began to enter into our eternal inheritance.” And S. Augustine (Serm. 2 de Epiph.) says—”This day, on which we keep the anniversary of our festival, first shone upon the Magi. They were the first-fruits of the Gentiles, and we are the people of the Gentiles. To us hath the tongue of Apostles announced it; but to them, the star, as though the tongue of heaven. And the same Apostles, as though they were other heavens, have declared unto us the glory of God.”

Mat 2:3  And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Herod was troubled, because he feared that he would lose the kingdom of the Jews, now that Messiah, their true and legitimate Prince, was born. “What wonder,” says S. Augustine, “that impiety should be troubled at the birth of piety?” (Serm. 2 de Innocent.) Jerusalem was troubled, as well because there were many in it who favoured Herod, as because the Scribes and chief Priests, having leisure only for their own advantage, and being thus in a state of spiritual slumber, had no thought about the coming of Messiah; that now the sceptre was departed from Judah, as Jacob had foretold, Messiah should be born. Wisely does S. Gregory say (Hom. 10. in Evangel.), “When the King of heaven was born, the earthly king was troubled because, indeed, terrestrial exaltation is confounded when celestial greatness is disclosed.” “For,” as S. Fulgentius says (Serm. 1 de Epiph.), “This King came, not to fight against and conquer earthly kings, but, by dying, marvellously to subdue them. Not, therefore, was He born to be thy successor, O Herod; but that the world might faithfully believe in Him.” “Christ seizes not thy royalty,” says S. Leo, “nor would the Lord of the universe be contented with thy petty sceptre. He, whom thou wishest not to be king in Judæa, reigns everywhere, and thyself wouldst reign more prosperously if thou wouldst be subject to His sway.”

And Herod, as we may see in Josephus, cut off all the members of the royal house of Judah, lest there should be any rival to his sovereignty.

Mat 2:4  And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born.

He calls the learned doctors of the law, the Scribes, who occupied themselves in transcribing, reading, and expounding the sacred Scriptures. They are sometimes called lawyers; such a one was Ezra.

Mat 2:5  But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet:
Mat 2:6  And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.

I have explained this prophecy in my Commentary upon Micah 5., so that I shall not here repeat it. Only let us observe three discrepancies between S. Matthew and Micah. The first is that S. Matthew, in speaking of Bethlehem, omits the name Ephratah. The explanation is that Bethlehem had two names. It was called by its founders Bethlehem and Ephratah, because Ephratah was the father of Bethlehem. (See 1Chron 4:4); and Ephratah in Hebrew signifies fruitful, or fruit-bearing. Bethlehem has a similar meaning, being house of bread. The literal reason why Christ would be born at Bethlehem was that He might be accounted David’s Son, who was promised to him, who was himself born in Bethlehem. The moral reason was to teach us humility, to be content with a lowly parentage, a lowly country, a humble cottage. Whence S. Leo (Serm. I de Epiph.) says—”He who took the form of a servant chose Bethlehem for His birthplace, that in that obscure place He might hide His glory, but Jerusalem for His passion, that He might the more make known abroad the shame of the Cross.” He taught us, therefore, to cover our glory, to uncover our shame. He here taught us that heavenly glory, which is a paradox to the world, is, that “the way to glory is flight from glory.” Christ, who is a star—i.e., a light and guide to glory and blessedness—hid Himself, and His Godhead and His dignity of Messiah, by abiding in the manger of Bethlehem. And therefore God the Father displays Him to the whole world, and glorifies Him by means of a star shining out of heaven. If, therefore, thou seekest true glory, shun fame, court ignominy; for if thou desirest glory, thou shalt lose it; but if thou despisest it, then, even against thy will, thou shalt be had in honour. For this paradox is most true—”Glory follows him that shuns it, flees from him that pursues it, as a shadow the body.” “Humility goeth before glory.” (Prov 15:33.) God exalteth the lowly, and humbleth the proud. Whence “Christ emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross: for which cause God also hath exalted Him, and given Him a name, which is above all names.” (Philippians 2:7.)

2. The second discrepancy is, that for, thou art not the least, as S. Matthew has it, Micah has, thou art a little one (parvulus, Vulg.)—i.e., art the least, or very little. The explanation is that, in Micah, an adversative particle is implied from the context, as in Ps 117:141, Ps 117:157, meaning “Very little art thou, O Bethlehem, if I look at thy walls, thy citizens, thy buildings, thy fame; but yet very far art thou from being little, if I consider the princes that have come from thee, and that have been and shall be born in thee. For in thee was born King David, and of thee shall be born Christ, David’s antitype.” Some read the words in Micah interrogatively—Art thou very small? That is, Thou art by no means the least, but, by reason of Christ, thou shalt become very great and famous.

3. Instead of among the princes, Micah has, among the thousands. The explanation is, that the Hebrew aleph denotes both a thousand and a prince. But either translation in this place comes to the same thing; for, in the princes means among the princes—i.e., the cities, or even the inhabitants of Judah; this is, from the great number of princely men who have, or shall come forth from thee. In the thousands. This is the same as among the cities, which contain many thousands of people; and therefore they are princes, and have their own chiefs, or princes. For the people of Israel was divided by Moses into chiliads, or so many thousands of families, each of which had their own dukes and princes. (See Exodus 18:25, and Judges 6:15.)

Mat 2:7  Then Herod, privately calling the wise men learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them;

This he did secretly, in order to avoid popular rumours, murmurs, and tumults. For the people were expecting their Messiah. It was also that he might more thoroughly and reliably find out all the particulars concerning the star. He learned from them when the star appeared, that thus he might know when Christ was born, and so, by killing all the infants who were born about that date, might slay Christ among them. For even already he had determined on the slaughter of the infants, in his own mind. Whence the Arabic version hath it, “He was informed by them concerning the time in which the star appeared to them.”

Mat 2:8  And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him.

This was the fox-like cunning of a fox. He would make the Magi obedient and faithful to himself, by pretending that he wished to worship Christ, when he was taking thought how to kill Him. So Caracalla, in order to reign alone, slew his brother Geta in his mother’s arms, because he was associated with him in the empire; and, to extenuate his crime by piety, he placed his brother among the gods, saying, “Let him be a god, so long as he is not alive.” In like manner, Herod saith to the Magi, that he would worship Christ as God, whilst he purposed in his mind to kill Him as a man and a king.

Mat 2:9  Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.

From hence it would appear that the star which shone in the east with great effulgence, afterwards, when it accompanied the Magi, appeared less brilliant, and, at Jerusalem, was hidden altogether, so as to force the Magi to inquire of the Scribes where Christ should be born, that, by this means, it might be made known even to them that He was born. For Herod and his minions were unworthy of beholding this celestial star; for if they had, they would have used their knowledge to seek out and destroy Christ. But when the Magi departed from Jerusalem, the star again appeared, and shone with its former lustre, to indicate Christ, who is the Light—yea, the Sun of this world—and by its radiance to point out the very spot—that is to say, the stable in which he abode after his birth—so that they might not have to wander in vain, searching for Him from house to house.

Mat 2:10  And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And seeing the star—i.e., as brilliant as at first—they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Exceeding great. This is the force of the Hebrew gedolah meod. And they rejoiced so greatly because, by the star being thus lustrous, they knew that they were come nigh to Messiah, and were going to Him in a direct course.

Mat 2:11  And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him: and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother. From this passage some are of opinion that, after their enrolment, the wealthier people, who had come to Bethlehem for the purpose, were departed; so that there were now many houses in Bethlehem at liberty for the purpose of hospitality and that Christ had been removed from the stable in which He was born, to some worthier abode of one of the citizens, and was there worshipped by the Magi. For it is said, they entered into the house. So S. Epiphanius, Hæres. 51, Maldonatus, and others.

But the more common opinion is, that the stable in which Christ was born is called the house. For the Hebrews call any place in which people live, a house, as Ps 103:17. The house—i.e., the nest, of the coot (Ital.) is their leader—namely, of birds and flying creatures. For since the census of the whole people proclaimed by Augustus was being taken during some weeks and months, and since during that period a succession of wealthy people kept arriving for enrolment, and afterwards departing, there was no room for Mary and Joseph, who were poor people, in the hostelry, until the thirteenth day after Christ’s birth. And God ordered this, both to try the constancy of the Magi, and to teach them and others that Christ’s kingdom consists in poverty, humility, and contempt of the world, not in earthly wealth, and pride, and pomps, and palaces. So S. Augustine (Serm. 1 & 2 de Epiph.), Justin, c. Tryph., Chrysostom, &c., and Suarez, which latter adds—”It is plain that Christ, and the Blessed Virgin, as a woman who had lately given birth to a child, remained in the stable until her Purification.”

Whence S. Jerome (Epist. 17 ad Marcellam) says, “Behold in this little hole of the earth, the Maker of the Heavens is born. Here He was wrapped in swathings, here adored by the Magi.” And Augustine (Serm. de Epiphan.) says: “He was lying in a manger, yet He led the Magi from the East. He was hidden in a stable, and was acknowledged in Heaven; that being recognized in Heaven, He might be manifested in a stable.” You may reconcile these two opinions with each other, if you suppose that in Bethlehem, being a small city, there was only one public hospice for strangers, to which was attached a stable for their horses and other beasts of burden. And so it is said that the Magi entered into the house, or inn, because they went into the stable of the inn. S. Luke’s words are in favour of this, when he says:—”There was no room for them in the inn.” This means the common hospice of the place. And they found the Babe lying in the manger, plainly, the only manger belonging to the stable of this hospice.

And falling down they adored him. The Arabic has—they fell down in adoration of him. Erasmus thinks that the Magi did not know Christ was God, and therefore did not worship Him with latria, but with civil respect, as the King of the Jews. But the fathers and interpreters teach the contrary—that the Magi, by Divine inspiration, were aware of Christ’s Divinity, and worshipped It with latria, and that for this reason, they offered Him frankincense, which is due to God alone. So S. Irenæus, lib. 3, c. 10; S. Leo, Serm. de Epiphan.; and others passim. Whence S. Fulgentius says wisely in his sermon on the Epiphany, “Consider what they offered, and you will know what they believed.” Hence this day is called by the Greeks, Epiphany and Theophany—i.e., the appearing of God—because on that day Christ was declared to the Magi to be God, and was worshipped by them as God.

And opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In these things Arabia abounds. (See Ezek 27:22, and Pliny, lib. 12, c. 14.) It was the ancient custom of the Arabians and other Orientals, not to approach their kings and rulers except with a gift, as it were a tribute due to them. (See Gen 43:11; 1 Sam 10:27.) Whence Seneca says (Epist. 17), “No one may salute the monarchs of Parthia without a present.” Moreover, it was God’s law (Ex 23.), “Thou shalt not appear empty before me.” Lastly, the Queen of Sheba gave precious gifts to Solomon, and received greater from him. Thus it was with the Magi and Christ, who is the true Solomon.

S. Bernard thinks that the Magi offered gold to the Blessed Virgin and Christ to succour their poverty, myrrh to strengthen Christ’s infant limbs, frankincense to prevent the unpleasant odours of the stable. This is a very literal and undignified sense. For the fathers teach, passim, in a far higher way, that illuminated by the Holy Ghost they offered gold to Christ as the most wise King; for wisdom is compared to gold (Prov 8:19); frankincense as to God, and according to His humanity, as the High Priest and Pontiff; Myrrh to Christ as man, about to die and be buried for the redemption of the human race, and the third day to rise again to immortality and eternal glory. For the bodies of the dead are buried with myrrh, that they may remain incorrupt. Myrrh has the property of drying up moisture, and preventing the generation of worms. So S. Leo says, “Frankincense they offer to God, myrrh to man, gold to the king, wisely venerating the Divine and Human Nature joined in one. What they believe in their hearts they show forth by their gifts.”

And S. Ambrose says—”Gold for a king, frankincense for God, myrrh for the dead.” And S. Gregory (Hom. 10), “By gold they proclaim a king, by frankincense God, by myrrh a mortal man.” “Very beautifully,” says S. Jerome, “does the Presbyter Juvencus in one sentence comprehend the mysteries of the gifts, ‘Gold, frankincense, myrrh, for a king, man, and God.’”

Grammarians derive frankincense from the Greek θυόω, I make an odour, or better, from θύω, I sacrifice, because the first sacrifices of primitive men were fumigations of incense. Hence, “honours of frankincense” meant divine honours. Bede, whose words I have already quoted, asserts that the first of the Magi, whose name was Melchior, gave gold, Gaspar the second, frankincense, Balthasar the third, myrrh.

But others, with more probability, think that each of them offered all these their gifts to Christ, and that each, by these their gifts, attested their own faith in Christ as being a King and God, and about to suffer for man.

Hence the Gloss says: “All this was done by divine inspiration to signify the regal power in Christ by gold, the divine majesty by frankincense, and human mortality by myrrh.”

Allegorically, these three gifts signify Christ, who offered Himself to God the Father upon the cross as it were gold, since out of golden love, even love to man, He immolated Himself; as the myrrh of the very bitter passion of His griefs and torments; and as the frankincense of the highest devotion, submission, veneration, and worship. Whence also on the same day of the week on which Christ offered Himself upon the cross the Magi offered their three gifts to Christ. For the tradition is that Christ was born on the Lord’s Day. And if from thence you reckon thirteen days you will come to the Friday of the following week. For the Magi worshipped Him on the thirteenth day after His birth.

Again, Christ offered three gifts to the Holy Trinity, namely, His flesh, soul, and divinity, just as Christians offer to the same Triune God acts of faith, hope, and charity.

Tropologically, in the first place, gold is charity, or love, and wisdom; frankincense is prayer and devotion; myrrh is mortification. Whence S. Gregory says (Hom. 10), “we offer gold, if we shine by the light of wisdom; frankincense, if we are redolent with fervent prayer; myrrh, if we mortify the vices of the flesh.” Hence in Sont 5:14, the bride says of Christ, the bridegroom: “His hands are turned and as of gold, full of hyacinths.” (Vulg.) “His hands,” that is, the works of Christ, and therefore perfect. They are as rings, they may be turned and adapted to every thing good. They are golden, because adorned with charity; full of hyacinths, because they breathe the love of heavenly things. Thus the golden works of charity make golden hands. As many works of charity as thou doest, so many golden rings dost thou put upon thy fingers, yea, verily, upon the fingers of Christ. “Good works,” says S. Bernard (de Convers. ad Cleric., c. 15), “are the seed of eternity and of eternal glory.” The very celebrated painter, Zeuxis, used to paint very slowly. Being asked the reason, he replied—”I paint for eternity.” Thus also do thou, O believer, work, live, paint, for eternity, that thy works may, through all eternity, shine in heaven before God, the angels, and the blessed. That frankincense denotes prayer, and myrrh mortification, is plain from Song iv. 6, “I will go to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.” And i. 12, “A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me.” And iv. 14, “The smell of thy garments, as the smell of frankincense,” i.e., lifting up prayers and sighs to God. “For,” says S. Gregory, “in all his works he prays, whilst he performs all such good works as he is able to do, with the intention of arriving at heavenly things.” The same says on Song chap. iii., “The holy soul makes its heart, as it were, a thurible to its God.” Mark the saying of S. Gregory Nyssen., “The cause of sin is not to implore the help of God by prayer.”

Again, gold is voluntary poverty. For this poverty is most rich, and far more pleasing to God than all the gold in the world. Whence the apostle, “As having nothing and possessing all things.” (2Cor 6:10.)

Frankincense is obedience, whereby a man offers his own will and intellect, yea, his entire self, to God, as a holocaust of frankincense.

Myrrh is fasting, mortification of the flesh; and what springs from mortification, chastity. Wherefore many think that the three vows of religion are here mystically signified: namely by frankincense, the vow of obedience; by myrrh, the vow of chastity; by gold, the vow of poverty.

Moreover, by these three gifts three kinds of good works are denoted: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, to which all species of virtues may be referred. For almsgiving helps our neighbour; prayer worships and calls upon God; fasting steadies a man within himself. So then, by means of these three, we offer to God whatever good things we have—namely, by almsgiving, our works; by prayer, our souls; by fasting, our bodies.

Mat 2:12  And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.

And having received an answer from God (Vulg.: the Greek, χρήομοι, signifies oracles; and the word answer implies, that the Magi in a doubtful matter, in the first place asked light of God, and received an answer from Him), in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country. Cyril, the monk, in his life of the Abbot S. Theodosius, relates that the Magi, when they fled from Herod, avoided high roads and public hospices, and rested in mountains and caves. “Because,” he adds, “they had determined not to enter Jerusalem, it was difficult for them to return home any other way, just as we see now is the case, those who come from Bethlehem pass through Jerusalem.”

The author of the Imperfect Commentary cries out in admiration of the faith and constancy of the Magi: “O faith! which contradicted not the admonition of the angel, nor said, ‘We have come so great a journey; as we came we feared not the crowds of so many cities; we were not terrified at the face of that dreadful king, but we stood before him and confidently proclaimed that King who had been born, and we offered unto Him, as God, worthy gifts; and now you bid us conceal ourselves like slaves and take to flight, as having come one way and departing another way.’ But they continued faithful. And as before they were not afraid to be known, so now they blushed not to depart in secret.”

Tropologically, Herod is the devil, the world, and the flesh, and the way to him is pleasure and greed. They, therefore, who pass from him to Christ, walk by the other way of the cross and mortification; and thus it behoves them to return to their own country—that is, the heavenly paradise.

Hear the author of the Imp. Com. (Hom. 2): “He who comes from the devil to God must never walk by the way by which he went to the devil. Thou wentest by the way of fornication; for the future, walk by the way of chastity. Thou wentest by the way of avarice; walk for the rest of thy life in the way of almsgiving. For if thou goest back by the way by which thou camest, thou shalt come again under the dominion of Herod, and shalt become a traitor to Christ.” And S. Gregory saith (Hom. 10), “Our country is paradise. And when we have known Jesus, we are forbidden to return to it by the way which we came. For we departed from our country by pride, by disobedience, by following things that are seen, by tasting the forbidden fruit. But we must return to it by weeping, by obedience, by despising things that are seen, and by bridling the carnal appetite. We return to our country by another way; because we left the joys of paradise by the way of pleasures, we return to them by the way of sorrows.

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 2:1-12

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