Polish Christmas - Religious Aspects, Roraty (II)

Continuation of the first part about St. Nicolas & Christmas preparations.

We cannot forget about religious aspect of preparations for Christmas.
A religious aspect of preparations for Christmas is very significant in Poland. Poles are mainly Catholics and this influence out Christmas tradition. People participate in the series of religious teachings during Advent Season which are finalized with confession. Even the biggest sinners are waiting in lines to confession before Christmas Eve.

One of the most beautiful ceremonies preparing for Christmas is a mass called 'roraty'.
The mass begins just before sunrise in almost complete darkness in the church. The name "roraty" comes from the first words that begin the service, "rorate coeli" means "heaven, drop dew" in Latin.

In no other country this mass is celebrated that solemnly as in Poland. Roraty takes place just before sunrise (usually 6-7 am in the church). It is to show readiness, vigilance and alertness for Christ's coming. People who participate in the service also bring torches with them, which are lit up in the certain time during the mass.

This service has a special atmosphere since it starts almost in the darkness, gradually the candles are lit in the altar and by the people participating in the service giving more light. Finally when the mass is approaching the end, the sunrise gradually increases the amount of light. So, this mass is build up into the natural earth clock. During the service seven candles are lit at the altar to remember menorah, a Jewish seven-branched candelabrum that was standing in front of sanctuary in Jewish temple.

"Roraty" are celebrated since XIII century. According to records during "roraty" service in that time a representative of every social state was lighting one branch of menorah. King, Boleslaw Bashful (a husband of St. Kinga) lit the first and the highest candle. He was followed by a cardinal-primate who was lighting the next candle. The third candle was lit by a senator, the fourth by a noblemen, fifth by a knight, sixth by a townsmen and finally the seventh by a peasant. Everybody including a king was saying "I am ready for the last judgment day".

Read the next article about the Christmas Eve.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, December 2000 (article #18)

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