Rest in peace

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Requiescat, oil on canvas painting by Briton Rivière, 1888, Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Although commonly associated with Catholicism and Christianity, the phrase is also used in Judaism. This ancient Latin inscription from 688/689 AD begins with a Latin version of the phrase. Notice the menorah in the upper left corner and the Hebrew calendar date in the lower right.

"Rest in peace" (Latin: Requiescat in pace) is a short epitaph or idiomatic expression wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has died. The expression typically appears on headstones, often abbreviated as "R.I.P.".

Description[edit]

The phrase or initialism is commonly found on the grave of Catholics,[1] as it is derived from the burial service of the Catholic Church according to the Tridentine Rite, in whose parts including the Missa pro Defunctis (Requiem Mass) it appears several times.[2]

To satisfy a vogue for rhyming couplets on tombstones, the phrase has been parsed as:[3]

Requiesce
cat in pace

In high Latin, the "c" is hard (a "k" sound) so each "ce" above is roughly pronounced "kay." In Ecclesiastical Latin, however, when "c" comes before an "e", "ae", "oe", "i" or "y", it is pronounced like the "ch" in "church".

Originally in Hebrew in Isaiah (57, 2):

...will come in peace, and they will rest in their beds, he who goes straightforward.

The verse from Isaiah has been found inscribed in Hebrew on gravestones dating from the 1st century BC, in the graveyard of Bet Shearim. This verse speaks of the righteous person who died because he could not stand the evil surrounding him. A recapture of these words, read as "come and rest in peace," has been transferred to the ancient Talmudic prayers, in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic of the 3rd century AD. It is used to this day in traditional Jewish ceremonies.[4]

History[edit]

The phrase in English was not found on tombstones before the eighth century.[5][6] It became common on the tombs of Catholics in the 18th century, for whom it was a prayerful request that their soul should find peace in the afterlife. When the phrase became conventional, the absence of a reference to the soul led people to suppose that it was the physical body that was enjoined to lie peacefully in the grave.[7] This is associated with the Catholic doctrine of the particular judgment; that is, that the soul is parted from the body upon death, but that the soul and body will be reunited on Judgment Day.[8]

Other variations include “Requiescat in pace et in amore” for "May she rest in peace and love", and “In pace requiescat et in amore”. The word order is variable because Latin syntactical relationships are indicated by the inflexional endings, not by word order. However, if “Rest in peace” is used in an imperative mood, it would be “Requiesce in pace” (acronym R.I.P.) in the second person singular, or “Requiescite in pace” in the second person plural.[9]

In art[edit]

Linguistic analogues[edit]

Phrases in other languages:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charles Langworthy Wallis (1954), Stories on stone: a book of American epitaphs, p. 226 
  2. ^ Holy See (1961), Graduale Romanum, 1961 Edition by the Benedictines of the Solesmes Monastry, Desclée, p. 94*-112* 
  3. ^ Francis Edward Paget (1843), A tract upon tomb-stones, p. 18 
  4. ^ El male rachamim
  5. ^ The Church of England magazine (Church Pastoral-aid Society), 1842: 208 
  6. ^ Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, Andrew Boyd Cross, "Antiquity of the Religion", The Baltimore literary and religious magazine 3: 206 
  7. ^ Joshua Scodel (1991), The English poetic epitaph, Cornell University Press, p. 269, ISBN 978-0-8014-2482-3 
  8. ^ Karl Siegfried Guthke (2003), Epitaph culture in the West, p. 336 
  9. ^ Experts on Latin phrase.