EXEGESIS -- ISAIAS.
"Many of the Fathers," writes Fr. Morris, "understood the light cloud here spoken of as a symbolic name for the Blessed Virgin. Thus S. Ephrem referring evidently to a well-known opinion:--
"'This is taken also of Our Lord, who when He appeared as Man in the world was carried as if on a light cloud, upon the arms of the Virgin into Egypt.'"*
"'The cloud on which the Lord rode is a type of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary.'"+
"Now supposing a number of passages of this kind occurred, the meaning of the former part of the verse would show how the latter part was to be understood, viz., that the idols fell then and there, when and where Our Lady took Our Blessed Saviour. This would be a fair inference, even if nothing of a more definite kind occurred, and there was no tradition asserting the fact which Isaias prophesied to have taken place. But the words of S. Ephrem, before those last quoted, will show the existence of such a tradition:--
"'He shall break the statues of the house of the Sun, and shall burn the houses of the Egyptian gods with fire. This Bethshamesh is that which is called Heliopolis in Egypt; in which the worship of gods was exceedingly rife, and also that of helpless idols. And in it were huge statues as high as a pomegranate [tree].... Of these it is written, that the Lord broke them. However, it was not that He actually broke the idols and cast them down, but it was the worship of devils and idols, which the Lord Christ, when He appeared as man in the world, overthrew and destroyed and confounded. And this is what Isaiah especially signifies when he says, Behold, the Lord rides upon a light cloud, and enters Egypt, and shaken are the Egyptians' idols before Him.'++
"Now this passage, one not commonly cited, agrees with the general tradition to that effect. Athanasius in his youth composed a treatise in defence of the Incarnation against the heathen, and after citing some passages from the prophets, and this among them, to observe upon, he says:--
"'Which of the holy prophets or ancient patriarchs died upon the cross for the salvation of all? Or who was wounded and taken away for the health of all? Which of the great or the kings came down to Egypt, so that by that descent Egypt's idols fell? Abraham went thither, but idolatry prevailed over all again. Moses was born there, yet for all that the religion of those in error kept there still.'**
++ Vol. ii., p. 145. The minute description of the idols here omitted gives colour to a tradition that the Saint had been in Egypt: which is worth noticing here, as he may have learnt this tradition from Athanasius possibly.