“Rest in Peace” is a phrase often seen or heard when someone admired or loved has passed on. Frontier settlers would carve R.I.P. into a flat stone that would serve as a short epitaph on a grave marker before continuing their journey across the plains, or at least that’s what they do in movies.
“REST IN PEACE” (Catholic Church)
But what is the origin of this phrase, and why is it so commonly used? As with much of our culture, the answer to this question can be found in our past.
The Catholic Church includes this prayer at the beginning and end of burial services:
“Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace.”
(or in English)
“May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace.”
“REST IN PEACE” (Book of Isaiah)
Scripture within the Book of Isaiah (57:2) reads:
“Those who walk uprightly will enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” (NIV)
As far back as the first century, this verse from Isaiah is found carved in Hebrew on headstones, and is still common today in traditional Jewish ceremonies. The message of Rest in Peace in some variation is not found on English tombstones before the eighth century, but had become fairly common, particularly on Catholic grave sites by the 18th century.
The acronym of R.I.P. became synonymous throughout Christianity of the hope that the departed’s soul finds peace in death, and for Catholics, that the soul that parted from the body upon death be reunited on Judgment Day.
FORM YOUR OWN MEANING
How we live may determine the quality of our death. Each of us needs to come to terms with what it means to “rest in peace” . What has to happen in your life for you to Rest in Peace.? Here are a few poetic thoughts that resonate with me.
Letting the last breath come.
Letting the last breath go.
Dissolving, dissolving into vast space,
the light body released from its heavier form.
A sense of connectedness with all that is,
all sense of separation dissolved
in the vastness of being.
Each breath melting into space
as though it were the last.
- Stephen Levine -
When you were born,
you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life in a manner
so that when you die
the world cries and you rejoice.
- Native American Proverb -
As a well spent day brings happy sleep,
so life well used brings happy death.
- Leonardo DaVinci -