41 And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
Augustine: When the Angel said in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Rise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, it was at first understood by Joseph as a command to go into Judea, for so at first sight the land of Israel might have been taken to mean. But when afterwards he finds that Herod’s son Archelaus was king, he was unwilling to be exposed to that danger, seeing the land of Israel might also be understood to include Galilee also as a part of it, for there also the people of Israel dwelt.
Chrysostom: The law commanded men not only to observe the time, but the place, and so the Lord’s parents wished to celebrate the feast of the Passover only at Jerusalem.
Augustine: How did His parents go up all the years of Christ’s childhood to Jerusalem, if they were prevented from going there by fear of Archelaus? . . . It were possible that on the feast day amid so great a crowd they might secretly come, and soon return again, at the same time that they feared to remain there on other days, so as neither to be wanting in religious duties by neglecting the feast, nor leave themselves open to detection by a constant abode there.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
Bede: That the Lord came up every year to Jerusalem at the Passover, betokens His humility as a man, for it is man’s duty to meet together to offer sacrifices to God, and conciliate Him with prayers. Accordingly the Lord as man, did among men what God by angels commanded men to do. . . . Let us follow then the journey of His mortal life, if we delight to behold the glory of His divine nature.
43 And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
Greek Expositor: The reason of His tarrying behind in secret was, that His parents might not be a hindrance to His carrying on the discussion with the lawyers; or perhaps to avoid appearing to despise his parents by not obeying their commands. He remains therefore secretly, that he might neither be kept away nor be disobedient.
44 And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
Bede: The custom of the children of Israel while assembling at Jerusalem on the feast days, or returning to their homes, was for the women and men to go separately, and the infants or children to go with either parent indiscriminately. And so both Mary and Joseph each thought in turn that the Child Jesus, whom they saw not with them, was returning with the other parent.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. III (London: Rivington, 1843).