Texas HistoryGorzkie Żale: The Good Friday Legacy of Polish Immigrants at Panna Maria

Polish traditions have continued in the community of Panna Maria, including the singing of a Polish Good Friday hymn.
April 15, 2022
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While some Poles traveled to Texas earlier, Polish history in Texas largely traces back to the 1800s when political upheaval prompted broader immigration from the European country.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, Leopold Moczygemba, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, was recruited to be missionary to the German immigrant community and traveled to Texas in 1852.

Moczygemba spoke highly of the region in correspondence to his friends and family in Poland, urging them to join him, and in a few years, several hundred Poles made the journey to live in the Lone Star State.

The TSHA says that the immigrants arrived in Galveston in December 1854, and traveling inland southeast of San Antonio, they formed the settlement of Panna Maria with Moczygemba.

The legacy of the Polish settlers has continued since, with the Polish Heritage Center in Panna Maria opening last fall.

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With its Catholic roots, the tradition of singing many Polish hymns has also continued.

One such devotion commonly sung on Good Friday is the “Gorzkie Żale,” translated as “Bitter Sorrows” or “Lenten Lamentations.” 

It consists of both prose and verse, with hymns interspersed with readings.

An English translation of the hymn portions of the Gorzkie Żale can be found below.

 

Let us pray in contemplation,
While we sing this lamentation.

With eyes tearful, hearts repenting,
Let us grieve with no relenting.

Lo, the sun and stars are fading;
sadness, nature all pervading.

Host of Angels, sadly weeping;
Who’ll explain their deep bereaving.

Mountains, cliffs, and rocks are crumbling;
Sealed tombs open, loudly thundering.

Why such sorrow? Desolation?
Overwhelming all creation?

‘Tis our Savior’s sacred passion
Moving all to deep compassion.

Touch our hearts, O Lord most Holy,
With contrite hearts, true and lowly.

My Jesus, By your precious Blood redeem us;
From sin, malice, oh Lord, free us.

May our Lenten lamentations
Curb false ardor and wild passion.

 

Sorrow afflicts me; my heart bleeds with pain
As in the Garden, Jesus prays in pain.
Drenched in bloody sweat, the cup He accepts,
On death He reflects.

Soldiers approach Him while Judas draws near
To kiss Him Master, without shame or fear.
Like hungry, wild wolves, they our Lord belay,
Our Savior betray.

The rabble frenzied with fury and hate
Strike blows, push, kick Him; lead Him through the gate.
They spit in His face and pull on His hair,
The King, meek and fair.

One soldier in arms lifts his iron fists
At the sacred Face blood purples Christ’s lips.
Tenderly His eyes look up filled with tears
At the crowd who jeers.

Let my heart of stone, smitten be with grief,
O my sweet Jesus, cure my unbelief.
I’m sorry, Jesus, for offending you.
My God, I love You.

 

Jesus, sought by the maddened rabble
like meekest of lambs driven to slaughter.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, for thirty silver pieces
ungratefully sold by Judas the traitor.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, downcast with sorrow and pain,
Longing anxiously, death for man’s salvation.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, in the dark Olive Garden
shedding bloody sweat, accepting the Chalice.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, snared slyly into cruel hands
by Judas, traitor, ungrateful disciple.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, toughly bound by drugged hirelings
The rope, coarse and strong, tearing Your flesh sorely.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, jeered and scoffed by the rabble
Before the mock-court of the high-priest Annas.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, dragged rudely through the dark streets
By the beastly mob to the house of Caiaphas.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, struck in the face severely
with an iron glove by Malchus the servant.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, blamed falsely by bribed judges,
proclaimed unjustly as people’s deceiver.
My Jesus, I love you.

All hail, O Jesus, all honor to You,
For man degraded, humiliated,
To You, all holy, praises, and glory.
To You, Christ Redeemer.

Oh, how sad and stricken sorely
My soul tried by God most holy
As the sword pierces my heart.

Why, O Mother, are you worried?
Why your heart so heavily harried?
Why, Mother, are you dismayed?

Ask me not, I’m faint with anguish;
I am speechless and I languish
With the pain that grips my heart.

Tell me, tell me, Blessed Mary,
Why so pale, what grief you carry?
Why so bitterly you weep?

Lo, see my Son dejected
In the Garden, all rejected,
Sweating blood in grief and pain.

I beg you, O Blessed Mary
Your Son’s heavy cross to carry
With my love and no complaint.

Through Your wounds and sacred passion,
Lord and Savior, show us Your compassion.

 

Look, O my vain soul, how much God loves you;
For your salvation He gives His Son true,
More than scorn and pain, Jesus feels your sin,
Redeemer of men.

Behold Him standing, Creator and Lord,
Before man’s judgment, amid the fierce horde.
Clad in a white robe, the Lamb, gentle, meek,
Jeered a fool and freak.

For all my malice, for my willful sin,
The soldiers scourge Him, slash His tender skin.
Streams of Sacred Blood, profusely flowing,
God’s grace bestowing.

Vain glory and pride, sought by selfish men,
Pierce His Head with thorns, as men toy with sin.
Dressed in purple robes, sceptered with a reed.
Mercy He does plead.

Let my heart of stone, smitten be with grief,
O my sweet Jesus, cure my unbelief.
I’m sorry, Jesus, for offending You.
My God, I love You.

 

Jesus, seized by the maddened rabble
innocent captive sentenced for the guilty.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, whose holy Face was spattered
with filthy spittle by the savage ruffians.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, whom Peter in dread and fear
cowardly denied thrice before the servants.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, dragged roughly by armed soldiers
before Pilate’s court like a wretch and outlaw.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, whom Herod and his puppets
ridiculed and mocked with scorn and derision.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, who for sport and for mockery
clad in a bright robe was sent back to Pilate.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, chained to the pillar of stone
most cruelly beaten, lashed, scourged with no mercy.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, whose Sacred Head surrounded
by a crown of thorns piercing the skull deeply.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, dressed in a scarlet garment
a reed in the hand scoffed as King of glory.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, struck on the Head with the reed
mocked, by bending knees King and Man of Sorrow.
My Jesus, I love you.

All hail, O Jesus, all honor to You,
For man degraded, humiliated,
To You, all holy, praises and glory.
To You, Christ Redeemer.

 

Oh, I see Him, my own Jesus
His body bruised, out in pieces
By the scourging, brutal men.

Holy Virgin, please allow me
Would of Your Son to pervade me,
As on them I contemplate.

Seeing my Son so maltreated
With long, sharp thorns, His Head wreathed,
My soul swoons at this cruel sight.

Holy Mother, please share with me,
Your deep sorrow, hear this my plea,
Over your Son’s bleeding Head.

Oh, that I Your Mother grieving
Could in some way help relieving
Your severe pain, O my son.

Mother, found of love and sorrow,
May my spirit from you borrow
Little of your pain profound.

Through Your wounds and sacred passion,
Lord and Savior, show us Your compassion.

 

O my heart so cold, why do you not burn?
With fervor and zeal, why do you not yearn?
Jesus loves you so, buying you dearly,
Shed His Blood freely.

Boundless love for men drive Him to the Cross.
His arms embrace it; His strength suffers loss.
Exhausted and faint, beneath its burden.
Thrice He falls laden.

As they reach the hill, infamously sought
Docile to captors, He yields to their plot.
His hands and His feet to the cross they nail;
The scorned King they hail.

Sweet nails and sweet wood, free the Crucified,
Who for us sinners so unjustly died.
His sacred Body, we to rest will lay
On this mournful day.

Let my heart of stone, smitten be with grief,
Oh my sweet Jesus, cure my unbelief.
I’m sorry, Jesus, for offending you.
My God, I love You.

Let praise and honor be to You, O Lord,
For Your cross, passion wounds, death, O dear Lord.
All this You suffered for our salvation.
God of Creation.

 

Jesus, cursed and jeered by the wild mob
As traitor and thief adjudged to be guilty.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, unjustly by Pilate’s word
handed to the mob for Your crucifixion.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, carrying Your heavy cross
up the rugged hill, thrice severely falling.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, nailed to the shameful, hard cross
by beastly captors, tearing Your hand and feet.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, crucified with the two thieves,
for greater mockery by the howling rabble.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, jeered by the gaping, large crowd
and the passer-by, reviled and derided.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, Whom the thief on the left side
blasphemed, cursing You, false prophet deceiver.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, whose burning, unquenching thirst
was satiated with a bitter potion.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, in crucial pangs of dying
off’ring Your Spirit to Your Heavenly Father.
My Jesus, I love you.

Jesus, taken down from the rough cross
and laid in the tomb by loyal disciples.
My Jesus, I love you.

All hail, O Jesus, all honor to You,
For man degraded, humiliated,
To You, all holy, praises and glory.
To You, Christ Redeemer.

 

At the Cross my station keeping,
I stand mournful, sadly weeping.
Mother tender and distressed.

Oh Mother, let me share with you
His cross, passion, wounds, and death, too,
Looking back to Calvary.

At this moment, my own darling,
His limbs, veins, body all gnarling,
In the bitter pangs of death.

Grieving Mother, please allow me
To share your grief, your comfort be
On the death of your dear Son.

Praying to his Heav’nly Father,
He turns to me, His own Mother,
Trusting all mankind to me.

Holy Mary, let me carry
His cross, passion, deeply bury
In my soul redeemed by Him.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.