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Gorzkie Zale * Lenten Lamentations * Listen

   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 Blessed Sacrament.

* See a wood-cut of the Polish Sorrowing Christ

* See a folk carving of the Polish Sorrowing Christ

  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 (bilingual)
* 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.
C: Hymn
The first Hymn focuses on the particular sufferings of Christ.
* Read the full text of the Hymn (Cycle 1) (bilingual)
* 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 Lament
* 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 dialogue
* 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 Stabat Mater

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