Why Do We Say "Rest In Peace"?

Or “eternal rest”, etc? Aren’t we supposed to believe that at death we go somewhere immediately? Whether its heaven, purgatory, hell, etc? Or do we “rest” until the final judgement day? That sounds awfully like Rapture theology…

I don’t think “rest” means inactivity. You can take a vacation and “rest” even if you are swimming or hiking.

The phrase is in contrast to one of the curses of Adam:

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken [Genesis 3:19]

“Rest” means freedom from servile work.

I agree with what DavidFilmer said, but I think it’s more than just a prayer that someone would find “rest” from their servile work. The only true rest we will ever find in eternity, is with Jesus. Even in Purgatory, we will still be at peace, knowing that we will find our rest with Him, after we are purged of our sins. But, those who are destined for Hell, will never be able to find any rest, or peace, at all. So, when we say that we want the dead to, “rest in peace”, we are praying that they are bound for Heaven, and not for Hell.

Indeed. Charles Dickens put it well:

It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. [Sydney Carton in *A Tale of Two Cities

]

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be an affliction,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.

(Wisdom 3:1-3)

-Tim-

I read everyone’s post, so I hope I’m not repeating this, it is actually a somewhat philosophical (lack of a better word) question if not even liturgical.

What if our use is actually rooted in tradition?

Latin:* Requiescat in pace*

So, to an extent, I very much understand your question, it is almost as if the use of this phrase must predate the English use, note, the same initials in the Latin, R.I.P.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rest_in_peace

Really, it is a topic, a researcher or expert might be able to tell us more about. I’ve wondered the same thing.

I think some people will even say “Requiescat in pace” versus our English version.

Not that this is the best resource, but there is an old Ask An Apologist thread on it:
What does “Rest in peace” mean?

To add to what others have said,

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Augustine

CSEL 33, 1-5 - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Rapture theology?

What does it have to do with rapture theology?

The idea that the saints in heaven are not yet in their final state is not “rapture theology”–it’s sound, traditional orthodoxy.

In the narrowest interpretation, “rest in peace” assumes that the person is in purgatory.

However, the fact is that we don’t know where the person’s soul is, and prayer is made from our perspective, not God’s. (Given the doctrine of God’s temporal omnipresence–i.e., “timelessness”–it would seem to follow that our prayers could affect past events, though there is certainly no doctrine about that.) So I understand “rest in peace” as our prayer that the person
a) escape hell, and
b) pass swiftly and easily through whatever purgation may be necessary

But then, I prefer the less dogmatic Eastern approach. Episcopalians pray for the dead without having any formal doctrine about purgatory (in fact the 39 Articles reject “the Romish doctrine of Purgatory,” though as has already been discussed frequently on this forum, Episcopalians generally don’t consider themselves bound by the Articles).

Edwin

As an aside,

Since Purgatory is not heaven, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that would be resting in peace. Resting in peace would be looking past that…to heaven

That’s a fair statement

And what is that?

Eastern Catholics believe what Western Catholics believe by definition. Are you refering to the Orthodox?

The ROC dwarfs all the other Orthodox churches combined. The ROC teaches tollhouses. That’s one complicated system of events.

Think about that.

Do people in heaven need prayer? No.
Do people in hell benefit by prayer?No

So why are Episcopalians or any protestant for that matter praying for the dead? It sort of begs the question, where do they think souls are that they can benefit from prayer… true?

That was my point. That in the narrowest interpretation “rest in peace” assumes that the person
a) is not in hell
b) is in purgatory and not in heaven yet
and thus prays for them to pass through purgatory and enter heaven where they will “rest in peace.”

And what is that?

Since it’s less dogmatic, it’s harder to define. Eastern Christians clearly believe in purgation, but there are a variety of opinions on just how that happens, and purgatory isn’t separated out as clearly from heaven and hell. Many Orthodox speak of temporary suffering in hell, for instance. And of course those who take the “River of fire” view hold that even the damned are in heaven–that the whole language of “place” is misleading in the first place, because there is just the fire of God’s love and a variety of possible responses to it.

Eastern Catholics believe what Western Catholics believe by definition.

By definition they accept the same essential dogmatic principles. Their theological forms of expression and understanding are not the same. Here’s one Eastern Catholic perspective.

Are you refering to the Orthodox?

The ROC dwarfs all the other Orthodox churches combined. The ROC teaches tollhouses. That’s one complicated system of events.

It’s not a peculiarly Russian view. And its status within Orthodoxy is debated. I don’t think it could reasonably be called a dogma.

Do people in heaven need prayer? No.

How do you know that? One prayer in the Episcopal prayer book asks that the dead may grow in God’s “love and service.”

Do people in hell benefit by prayer?No

How do you know that either?

So why are Episcopalians or any protestant for that matter praying for the dead? It sort of begs the question, where do they think souls are that they can benefit from prayer… true?

No, it doesn’t.

For one thing, I don’t know how prayer “works” for anyone. When I am praying, I am handing the person for whom I pray over to the mercy of God. Period.

In the second place, as I said above, given divine timelessness it may well be that our prayers can affect the past. So perhaps prayer for the dead affects a person in their last moments of life. There’s no way to know.

This is one of my basic problems with Western Catholicism–the assumption that we have to know all kinds of things dogmatically that just don’t seem necessary to me.

Edwin

that was my point, one isn’t at rest until they are in heaven.

I was speaking of Eastern Catholics.

Where do they pull that idea from? Hell is eternal

That view of the damned are in heaven would completely contradict scripture. Revelation 21:27

Isn’t that what you were saying as well in your opening comment on this page?

Contarini

“rest in peace” assumes that the person
a) is not in hell
b) is in purgatory and not in heaven yet
and thus prays for them to pass through purgatory and enter heaven where they will “rest in peace.”

Souls in heaven are in the beatific vision, they see God as He is, they are in complete happiness. There is no greater happiness. If anything we need THEIR prayers.

Souls in hell can’t be helped. Just look at the richman and lazarus. The richman begged for just a sip of water. It wasn’t going to come. And look who was telling the story. It was Jesus.

People in hell would like mercy but none is coming.
People in heaven are already benefactor of God’s tremendous mercy

So what’s left? Who’s left to pray for who would benefit from our prayers? It’s souls in purgatory.

It still begs the question.

what reality between death and heaven or hell , is there where a soul benefits from prayer? That’s the soul in purgatory.

Being a simple soul, when I see the elaborate children graves here. adorned with toys and heartbreak I think but the children do not want tp rest. They want to play!

That is certainly the Western tradition.

It may in fact be a matter of semantics, with the East defining “hell” as “any post-mortem punishment/suffering” and the West defining it as “suffering that is eternal resulting from the final rejection of God by a human being or angel.”

The Jewish usage certainly conflates what we normally call “hell” and what we normally call “purgatory.” In fact, in the rabbinic tradition few if any people suffer in Gehenna eternally. In Islam, as well, many people will be “taken out of the Fire.”

It’s ironic that when I first encountered the idea of Purgatory, I learned to take it seriously through realizing that Catholics do not think of it as “temporary hell.” Now, through acquaintance with Orthodox, Jewish, and Muslim viewpoints, I’m much more open to the “temporary hell” idea, though I wouldn’t expect that to be what Purgatory felt like for a person who died in a consciously good relationship with God characterized by faith that works through love. In other words, there might be one kind of “purgatory” that is more like what Dante describes, particularly at the end of the Purgatorio where he walks through the flames, or like what Catherine of Genoa and Newman (in Dream of Gerontius) describe, and another that is more “hell-like” because the people in question died in a state of conscious alienation from God but had not wholly cut themselves off from the divine Mercy.

But of course we don’t know. What the Catholic Church teaches, as another poster pointed out, is that
a) there is purgation after death
b) it involves suffering, and
c) those being purified can benefit from our prayers.

That’s good enough for me.

That view of the damned are in heaven would completely contradict scripture. Revelation 21:27

The language is obviously metaphorical, and the “city” could be a metaphor for the conscious enjoyment of God’s presence, while the “lake of fire” was a metaphor for the experience of God as torment.

Souls in heaven are in the beatific vision, they see God as He is, they are in complete happiness. There is no greater happiness. If anything we need THEIR prayers.

We certainly do. But of course prayer can go both ways. And if God is infinite, then there can always be greater enjoyment of God, as St. Gregory of Nyssa taught.

Souls in hell can’t be helped. Just look at the richman and lazarus. The richman begged for just a sip of water. It wasn’t going to come. And look who was telling the story. It was Jesus.

Lazarus wasn’t going to leave heaven to act as the rich man’s servant, no :smiley:

You may be drawing too many implications from this story.

what reality between death and heaven or hell , is there where a soul benefits from prayer? That’s the soul in purgatory.

It’s really not worth arguing about. But as a matter of history prayer for the dead predated purgatory and existed where a clear doctrine of purgatory did not.

Edwin

Maybe you’re thinking
When we say in the creed, Jesus descended into hell and on the third day he rose from the dead… I don’t think the East thinks that means He descended to the damned, but maybe an Easterner will clear that up.

When Peter said that Jesus after His death went to preach to the souls in prison, that is NOT the hell of the damned. Jesus preached to those who could NOW actually go to heaven from where they were.

Re: Gehenna …(emphasis mine) … [FONT=Arial]From [FONT=Times New Roman]Judaism 101: Search the Glossary and Index[/FONT]
[/FONT]
"The place of spiritual punishment and/or purification for the wicked dead in Judaism is not referred to as Hell, but as Gehinnom or She’ol. According to most sources, the period of punishment or purification is limited to 12 months, after which the soul ascends to Olam Ha-Ba or is destroyed (if it is utterly wicked). See Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife. "

As we know, Jesus brought the Jews who followed HIM, clarity and the correct understanding of the afterlife.

As did the Church

What is Hell?
Are There Souls in Hell Right Now?
The Hell There Is!

:slight_smile:

I didn’t finish the story in that example. :wink:

As the story goes on, even if someone were to come back from the dead, those brothers of his (the richman) wouldn’t believe. Ergo one could surmise from that, when THEY die, they are going to join their brother in hell…where "between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. " IOW where the rich man is, there is no getting out. And Jesus is telling the story, and He knows about that stuff

What you’re refering to is the “name” purgatory. Even without the name, the concept was there even with the Jews.

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