The Ancient chants retracing the
Passion and Crucifixion of Christ form the essence of this typically Polish
weekly Lenten service that takes its name from the words of the hymn, "Gorzkie
zale przybywajcia" (Come to us, bitter lamentations). Many Poles
know the texts of the entire three-part cycle by heart.
The Gorzkie Zale [gosh-geh-zahl-leh]
began in Warsaw's Holy Cross Church during the 1700s. The devotion incorporates
prose and verse, chant and reading, prayer and meditation, inviting participants
to reflect on the mystery of Christian redemption, the Passion and death
of the Christ. This deep appreciation for the Passion is seen in the most
popular Polish image of Christ, Chrystus Frasobliwy, the
so-called "sorrowing Christ," which depicts Christ in the Garden, bent
in prayer and sorrow. The Lamentations highlight the very emotional nature
of Polish spirituality, inviting a personal identification with the Suffering
Lord and His Mother. The devotion is most often preceded by Benediction
and chanted kneeling before the
* See a wood-cut of the Polish Sorrowing Christ
* See a folk carving of the Polish Sorrowing
The Lamentations take the shape of a three-part
cycle; one part is sung each service. Each of the three parts has a parallel
form and structure, with repeated musical motifs. The text changes from
one part to the next. Each of the three cycles of Gorzkie Zale
are structured as follows:
A: Introductory Hymn / Pobudka
do rozmyslania meki Panskiej:
All three parts begin with the same Introductory
Hymn. These same invocations, from which the title Gorzkie Zale
is taken, set the truly somber and grieving mood for the lamentations.
The opening lines intone: "Gorzkie zale przybywajcia" (Come
to us, bitter lamentations), "Serca nasze przenikajcie" (as
we prepare our hearts).
* Read the full text of the Introductory Hymn
* Listen to the opening moments
B: Intentions / Intencja:
This spoken part directs the faithful toward
focused contemplation, aiming at three different sections of the Lord's
passion. It also guides the faithful in offering their contemplations as
acts of veneration and penance.
The first Hymn focuses on the particular sufferings
* Read the full text of the Hymn (Cycle 1)
* Listen to the opening moments of the Hymn
D: The Soul's Lament / Lament
duszy nad cierpiacym Jesuzem:
The Soul's Lament recasts moments of the Passion,
interjected with the repeated refrain "Jezu moj kochany!
(My beloved Jesus!)."
* Read the full text of The Soul's Lament
(Cycle 1) (bilingual)
* Listen to the opening moments of the
* Listen to the closing of the Lament
E: Mary's Dialogue with the Soul
/ Rozmowa duszy z Matka Bolesna:
The Dialogue includes a conversation with the Blessed
Mother, in which she is questioned about her grief and in turn offers
answers regarding the nature of her suffering. This aspect of the Gorzkie
Zale may be seen as uniquely Polish. It reaffirms the Marian
nature of Polish spirituality as expressed in the central icon of Polish
Catholicism, Our Lady of Czestochowa. It models this spirituality through
its inclusion of Mary's suffering at the center of the Lamentations.
* Read the full text of the Dialogue with
the Soul (Cycle 1) (Pol-Eng)
* Listen to the opening portion of the
* See a Medieval Polish Pieta
For more Polish compositions on Mary at the Cross:
* Listen to Chopin's Stabat Mater
* Music and Pol/Eng Text for Szymanowski's
F: Final Refrain / Ktorys cierpal za nas rany:
The final refrain is repeated three times as
the closing motif for the Lamentations. It begs for the Lord's mercy. The
thrice-repeated refrain echoes the "Lord have Mercy/ Kyrie"
of the Mass and is also sung as the last invocation of each of the Polish
Stations of the Cross: "Ktorys za nas cierpial rany, Jezu Chryste,
zmiluj sie nad nami."
* Listen to the Final Refrain