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The spiritual roots of a fascinating Polish Advent tradition

LIGAWKA INSTRUMENT
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In some areas of Poland, Advent was heralded in by this curious musical instrument.

There are many ways to signal the coming of the Advent season, and in certain parts of Poland, they did so with the ligawka, a large musical instrument that has biblical roots.

According to Culture.pl, “One of the oldest Polish instruments, this wooden horn is what Abu ‘Ubaydallah al-Bakri, the 11th-century Arabic historian who wrote about ancient Slavs and Poland, had in mind when he noted the following: ‘They have a wind instrument that’s more than two cubits long.’ Ligawka used to be employed by herdsmen to call cattle.”

Over time, ligawka became more of a symbolic instrument used to usher in the Advent Season. It was blown throughout the Advent season, both in the morning and in the evening. The instrument was used to announce the beginning of Advent, as well as toremind the people of Christ’s Second Coming and to be watchful for Judgment Day. Additionally, the instrument was used in the liturgy and has connections to the “Roraty” Mass that was celebrated before the dawn.

This Polish tradition has particular biblical roots, found in the book of Revelation. There we find angels announcing the coming apocalyptic events with the sound of a trumpet blast.

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them … Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them. (Revelation 8:1-2,6)

This sound of the trumpet in the book of Revelation has generally been viewed as a call to repentance, and so the Ligawka too has a spiritual meaning of reminding people to prepare for the Lord’s coming by preparing their hearts.

Advent has always been a time where the Church prepares for Christ’s entrance into the world in the manager, but at the same time she warns the faithful to be watchful for Christ’s Second Coming. It is piously believed that Christ will come again during the Advent season.

While the tradition is not as widespread as it once was, there are a few areas left where the sound of a horn can be heard that reminds the faithful to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Savior.

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