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The teeth that stand against a heresy

On a visit to Milan Cathedral Bishop Robert Barron marvelled at St Ambrose’s teeth. The remains of the fourth-century bishop lie behind a grille just under the main altar. With the aid of a powerful camera, Bishop Barron was able to look at the saint’s skull in “extraordinary detail”. “What struck me especially,” he wrote on his Word on Fire blog, “was the size and solidity of his teeth, still formidable after 1,600 years.”

But, when he posted the pictures on Facebook, reaction was mixed. Commentators said it was creepy and frightening for children. He was accused by Protestants of “encouraging the worship of dead bodies”.

But Bishop Barron said the “unapologetic showing” of the saint’s teeth was an act of resistance to the heresy of Gnosticism and its “suspicion of the body”.

The bishop wrote: “In Jesus Christ, the Word of God truly became flesh. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took to himself a human mind and will and imagination, but also feet, hands, internal organs, muscles, veins, and bones. He lived, died, and rose in a real human body.

“We clothe the skeleton of St Ambrose in stately liturgical robes and we crown his skull with a bishop’s mitre, not to be macabre or ‘creepy’, but because we reverence his body as a place where Christ had come to dwell,” the bishop said.

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