Friday, December 17, 2010


Most people, when they think of a tombstone, usually also think of RIP written on it. This acronym is commonly taken to mean "Rest in Peace"; however, although this is a close approximation, it's not actually what the letters stand for. RIP stands for "Requiescat in Pace", a Latin phrase meaning, "May he (or she) rest in peace". This simple little phrase does not just express a hope or wish on the part of the person saying it that the dead person would be at peace. It is actually part of a prayer from Catholic funerals and Masses for the dead. The speaker is praying that the dead person will be at peace. Kind of like when you pray, "May so-and-so be cured from their sickness, we pray to you, Lord."

So why pray for a dead person? If they are in Heaven, surely they do not need our prayers anymore. If they are in Hell, no prayers will ever be any good since they will be there for eternity. But what if some souls, at the point of death, are not yet clean enough to enter into God's presence, but yet are not wicked enough to go to Hell? Surely we can relate to this. At this point in my life, I'm not perfect. I commit little sins all the time - be they of impatience, laziness, or whatever. However, I'm not out there hating God and trying to offend Him in whatever way I can. I love Him and try to serve Him the best I can, and when I fall, I repent and keep on trying. So if someone dies in this type of state - not wicked, malicious, and deserving of Hell, yet still imperfect enough to commit small sins and without that perfect love of God that would eliminate all attachment to sin - what will happen to him or her? There can be no imperfection in Heaven; as Christians we all believe this. But this person has imperfections still remaining in their soul. So something must happen to them to remove these imperfections. Since God is all just as well as all merciful, it seems unfitting that He would simply remove those imperfections instantaneously. Justice requires some kind of satisfaction for sin. The person himself would presumably also recognize this, and not wish to enter Heaven either unclean or without having paid his full dues to God. Therefore the soul should undergo a time of satisfaction to God and of cleansing, so that it may enter Heaven with a perfect love of God and having received its due recompense for sin. This is what Catholics call Purgatory, and this is why Catholics pray for the dead. We do not know that the dead person is in Heaven; they may very likely be in Purgatory. So we pray to God that they would soon be able to leave Purgatory and enter Heaven, where they will be at peace.

So the next time you see RIP on a tombstone, remember - it's a prayer that the person buried there will soon be cleansed from all imperfections and be able to leave Purgatory to enter into the perfect happiness of Heaven.


Blogger Jean de B. said...

Well said (and convincing too)!

8:35 AM  

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