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. 2 Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? . . .
Rabanus: The Magi are men who enquire into the nature of things philosophically, but common speech uses Magi for wizards. In their own country, however, they are held in other repute, being the philosophers of the Chaldaeans, in whose lore kings and princes of that nation are taught, and by which themselves knew the birth of the Lord.
Augustine: What were these Magi but the first fruits of the Gentiles? Israelitish shepherds, gentile Magians, one from far, the other from near, hastened to the one Corner-stone.
Jesus then was manifested neither to the learned nor the righteous; for ignorance belonged to the shepherds, impiety to the idolatrous Magi. Yet does that Corner-stone attract them both to Itself, seeing He came to choose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and not to call the righteous, but sinners; that nothing great should exalt himself, none weak should despair.
Gloss: These Magi were kings, and though their gifts were three, it is not to be thence inferred that themselves were only three in number, but in them was prefigured the coming to the faith of the nations sprung from the three sons of Noah.
Or, the princes were only three, but each brought a large company with him.
Remigius: They “came out of the East,” seeing all who come to the Lord, come from Him and through Him; as it is said in Zechariah, “Behold the Man whose name is the East.” [Zech 6:12]
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Whence the day springs, thence came the first-fruits of the faith; for faith is the light of the soul. Therefore they came from the East, but to Jerusalem.
Remigius: They knew the time but not the place of His birth. Jerusalem being the royal city, they believed that such a child could not be born in any other.
Pseudo-Augustine: Many kings of Judaea had been born and died before, yet had Magi ever sought out any of them for adoration? No, for they had not been taught that any of these spoke from heaven. To no ordinary King of Judaea had these men, aliens from the land of Judaea, ever thought such honour due. But they had been taught that this Child was one, in worshipping whom they would certainly secure that salvation which is of God. Neither His age was such as attracts men’s flattery; His limbs not robed in purple, His brow not crowned with a diamond, no pompous train, no awful army, no glorious fame of battles, attracted these men to Him from the remotest countries, with such earnestness of supplication. There lay in a manger a Boy, newly born, of infantine size, of pitiable poverty. But in that small Infant lay hid something great, which these men, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, had learned not of earth but of heaven; as it follows, “We have seen His star in the east.”
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. I (London: Rivington, 1842).