Fools think they are wise, so they do not search. The three wise men go on a pilgrimage, on a search, because they know they are not wise.
Just as saints know they are sinners but sinners think they are saints, good people do not call themselves “good people” and wise men do not call themselves wise.
Thus, the wise seek. And all seekers find, according to our Lord’s own promise. But only seekers find. If the wise man in us will travel far from home, comfort and security, then we may arrive at Bethlehem.
As Pascal says, there are only three kinds of people: those who have sought God and found Him (these are reasonable and happy), those who are seeking God and have not yet found Him (these are reasonable and unhappy), and those who neither seek God nor find Him (these are unreasonable and unhappy). Everyone in the second class makes it into the first; all seekers find. But only seekers.
The wise men came from “the East,” the land of the rising sun, the symbol of hope. Any pilgrimage we begin in seeking God, in any part of our lives, is undertaken for this motive. Hope is one of the three most necessary things in the world, one of the three theological virtues. Hope is our energy, our trigger, our motive power.
The wise men come to worship, just as the shepherds do. That’s why they are wise; not because they know the means, the way, but because they know the end; not because they lift their heads to the stars but because they bow their knees to the Baby. Wisdom is not the pride of cleverness in knowledge, but the humility of holiness. “The fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom.”
They make their pilgrimage from East to West. Oriental wisdom must turn West to find Christ, and the West — Rome — must go East. For Christ is born at the center. He is at the center of all things metaphysically, so it’s fitting that He be born at the physical center of the world as well, between East and West, North and South, between ancient and modern times. All time centers on Him; all dates are B.C. or A.D. Everything is relative to Him. He is the absolute.