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 przybywajcie” (Come to us, bitter lamentations). Many Poles know the texts of the entire three-part cycle by heart.
The Gorzkie Zale 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. The Lamentations highlight the very emotional nature of Polish spirituality, inviting a personal identification with the Suffering Lord and His Mother. There are five parts: “Pobudka” (Wake-up call), “Żal duszę ściska” (Sadness grips the soul), “Lament duszy” (Cry of the soul), “Smutna rozmowa” (Sad discussion); and the last part, “Któryś za nas cierpiał rany” (You who suffered wounds for us). Some time ago I knew it all by heart.
These take place mostly in the churches, but since Poland is so very Catholic and Bitter Lamentations are so “popular” here it is sang and prayed outside in the Warsaw’s square in 2007: