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"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 "RIP" or "R.I.P.".
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The phrase dormit in pace (English: "he sleeps in peace") was found in the catacombs of the early Christians and indicated that "they died in the peace of the Church, that is, united in Christ." The acronym R.I.P., meaning "rest in peace", continues to be engraved on the gravestones of Christians from several denominations, especially the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church.
To satisfy a vogue for rhyming couplets on tombstones, the phrase has been parsed ungrammatically as:
cat in pace
A similar phrase in found in the book of Isaiah, 57:2:
|“||...will come in peace, and they will rest in their beds, he who goes straightforward.||”|
This verse has been found inscribed in Hebrew on gravestones dating from the 1st century BC, in the graveyard of Bet Shearim. It 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.
The phrase in English was not found on tombstones before the eighth century. It became ubiquitous on the tombs of Christians in the 18th century, and for High Church Anglicans, as well as Roman Catholics in particular, 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. This is associated with the Christian 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.
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. 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. In the common phrase "Requiescat in pace" the "-scat" ending is appropriate because this is a "hortatory subjunctive": "May he/she rest in peace."
Excerpt from gravestone in Święciechowa, showing R.i.p.
Phrases in other languages:
Dormit, he sleeps, as an expression for death is proper to Christianity. Dormitio, in somno pacis, dormivit are therefore very frequently found. These and the expression Dormierit in Domino (may he sleep in the Lord) are to be seen especially in loculi of the II. and II. centuries, and occur in S. Agnese.
Signs such as "RIP" (Rest in Peace) on the tombs of the early Christians didn't just mean they died "peacefully" but that they died in the peace of the Church, that is, united in Christ in the Church and not apart from it.
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