Where have you seen this Latin phrase, Soli Deo Gloria? Actually, we worship weekly at St. Bede Episcopal Church in Forest Grove, Oregon with these words in front of us. Have they blended into the fabric of our worship space? Where are they? This Latin phrase is emblazoned in gold near the top of the organ case. Why is this phrase on the organ case?
It all goes back over 333 years ago to Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably the greatest organist and composer in the history of Western music. You see, this man of faith believed that music was a “refreshment of spirit”, and a powerful tool for the proclamation of the gospel.
Johann Sebastian routinely marked the tops of his scores with the initials “JJ” and ended his compositions with the initials, “SDG”. Let’s take a minute to look at these two sets of initials.
The initials, JJ stand for, “Jesu, Juva” or “Jesus, Help”. This man, with amazing talent and ability, was praying for help from the very beginnings of his creative impulses. His work was underscored by his deep need and faith. The humility of a great artist towards his Creator God, knowing that he was watched over, heard, and loved. God was intimately involved in his work (and more importantly ~ in him). What a powerful testament for everything we do – Jesu, Juva! Lord, help me make this my prayer .
And what about the letters, SDG? Ultimately, Bach believed that music brought glory to God. At the end of most of his scores, Bach bearing witness to his faith and humility, left the initials SDG, the abbreviation for Soli Deo Gloria, or “To God alone be glory”. What a powerful testament we have so prominently before us in our sanctuary. How might we look toward glorifying God not only in our worship but as we live our lives?
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, and her husband, David Jordan, media-artist are the creators and performers of the organ and multi-media concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, Bach and Sons, and From Sea to Shining Sea.