The Cornerstone

From Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel (1270)

And first he says, “behold… magi”, who according to the common way of speaking are called incanters. But in the Persian language, philosophers and wisemen are called magi. Indeed, these men came to Jesus because they had recognized that the glory of the wisdom which they possessed was from Christ. And they are a certain first-fruits of the Gentiles because they first came to Christ.

And according to Augustine, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled by their coming, “for before the child knows to call his father and his mother, the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria will be taken away before the king of the Assyrians” (Isa. 8:4). Before Christ spoke, he took away the strength of Damascus and the riches and spoils of Samaria, i.e., idolatry.  For they had given up idolatry and brought gifts.

Similarly, one should consider that some came to Christ from the Jews – namely the shepherds – and some came to Christ from the Gentiles – namely the magi. For Christ himself is the cornerstone who makes both into one.

Any why magi and shepherds?  Because the shepherds were more simple and the magi were more sinful.  This shows that Christ accepts both…

Again, the magi showed reverence by offering gifts… For it was customary among the Persians that they always adored with gifts.  And this is “and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Consider, “The kings of Tarshish and the islands will offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba will bring gifts” (Psalm 72:10).  And likewise, “All they from Saba will come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord” (Isa. 60:6).

St. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274) is sometimes described as the greatest thinker of the medieval Church. His various theological treatises, above all his Summa Theologica, seek to reconcile inherited Christian teaching with the newly rediscovered metaphysical writings of Aristotle. His Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew is a text reconstructed from lectures he gave at the University of Paris between 1270 and 1272. His modern feast day is January 28. This text has been slightly adapted for contemporary readers.


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