The arguments have been on for as long as one can recall, and still raging, especially in the Catholic Church where tradition demands of the parents to publicly and ceremonially offer the newly born before the altar of God, and for the priests’ blessing. In keeping with this age long custom, right from the time of Christ, over 2000 years ago.
The controversy has been, is it correct to speak of child presentation, or child dedication in performing the act? To some, the noun ‘presentation’ and the noun ‘dedication’ are interchangeable, and so, it matters not how one wants to use them. But to others, whose stand I respect, just as the purists and masters of the language do, there must be a clear demarcation between the two, ‘presentation and ‘dedication’ to transmit the right message. The Holy Book, the Good News Bible is explicit on this, and guided by it, I dare to quote from the gospel of St. Luke chapter 2: vs. 22-23, at least to put the matter to rest, “The time came for Joseph and Mary to perform the ceremony of purification as the Law of Moses commanded. So they took the child to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every first-born male is to be dedicated to the Lord.”
Don’t be confused with the use of the word ‘dedicated’ in the last sentence of vs. 23. Let me explain to understand my point of argument. The act of taking the baby to the altar with gifts to be dedicated to God by the priests is the presentation which bears semblance with the offer of a pair of doves, or two pigeons by Jesus’ parents in the temple as required by law for the child dedication to God by Simeon, the high priest (vs. 24). For clarification, I would like us to take a cue from what the reference books also say about the statements, ‘presentation’ and ‘dedication.’
The Chambers 21st Century dictionary explains that, the noun ‘presentation’ is the act of presenting; the manner in which something is presented, laid out, explained or advertised. It could also be a formal report, usually delivered verbally. Still the verb of it, ‘presented,’ ‘presenting’ is to give or award something, especially formally or ceremonially-to put up a special appearance in public, which contextually fits the presentation of a baby, for example, before the altar of God for dedication by the priest to know, love and serve Him only as required of all Christians. The noun ‘dedication’, conversely, the dictionary states, is the quality of being dedicated, act of dedicating something, for instance, dedicating a book wholly or chiefly to some purpose, cause, etc.
To devote or address a book, piece of music to someone as a token of appreciation or respect. The verb form ‘dedicate’ is to give or devote oneself or one’s time to making things happen, it could be money or pursuit of a cause with the intention of achieving something tangible and be identified with the project. It could also mean to set something apart for some sacred purpose, just as the child is dedicated by the priest on the day of presentation to know God, and Him only would he or she serve. To stretch it a bit further, a book or term project can be dedicated to someone who, perhaps, contributed immensely to one’s academic work. It could be a parent, husband, wife or close associate by words. One can also fancy to dedicate his or her newly built house to the glory of God.
Just as the parents in the Church voluntarily hand over the new born to the priest during the baby presentation to be dedicated to the Almighty God for all round blessing and protection from the snares of the Evil One, Satan that prowls the world seeking to ruin souls of the uninitiated. What follows thereafter is the baptism of the child to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
The rest, which is on the winning and brighter side, as they say, is history. From the foregoing, make no mistake, and choose the right word when it comes to mind to take that child, as they normally say, baby goes to Church, to be presented at the altar of God. The parents do the presentation of the child while the priest dedicates the child to God for His blessings and praying in turn, so I think, that the child dedicates his or her entire life to the service of God.
Remember, if you are talking about baby dedication, is like putting the cart before the horse. Presentation takes place first, then the dedication of the baby is performed by the priest.